There is no correct way to grieve loss of Harrison Brown

Michael Jensen

In May, tragedy struck the 40 acres for the second time in less than 13 months. For reasons related to mental illness, Biology junior Kendrex White randomly stabbed four other students. Undergraduate studies freshman Harrison Brown was killed in the attack, the other victims were seriously injured. Other events on and off campus — and the false rumors surrounding them — magnified students’ trauma by spreading unnecessary fear throughout the UT community.

Although only a small percentage of the student body actually witnessed last month’s ultraviolence firsthand, there’s isn’t a soul on campus who won’t be affected the sudden loss of Harrison Brown. Simply put, we lost one of our own. In the wake of this senseless tragedy, we must allow ourselves time to grieve.

I started writing this column before Brown’s death. I had planned to talk about how my mom died in a freak accident during my last year of high school and how I’ve learned to cope over the past few years. I hoped that my own hard-fought battles with grief could help the countless other students who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

After Brown’s death however, everything changed. I still think my experience is important to share, but my mom died years ago. This story is for Brown’s family, for Brown’s friends and for my fellow Longhorns. This story is for all of us.

The first thing you should know is that grief is not linear. There is no “right” way to mourn the sudden loss of a loved one. Some will cry. Some will only cry when they think no one is watching. Some might not cry at all. Some survivors will even turn to humor that might seem dark, sick or offensive to most. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re actually cruel or insensitive — it’s just how they cope with unpleasant thoughts or feelings. It's also worth noting that even if you never knew Harrison Brown, it’s ok to be deeply affected by his death.

Nor is there a timeline. For many, the pain of losing a loved one only sinks in long after the initial feelings of shock and numbness. Some victims will be inconsolable for months and still more might not show many outward signs of grieving at all. One person might be traumatized for years while another person appears to bounce back in a matter of weeks. Regardless of how you process Monday’s tragedy, each of us is unique and the different ways we mourn reflects this.

Unfortunately, not everyone will understand or respect your experiences. This is especially true for the close friends and family of the deceased. You might notice that your friends or coworkers begin to avoid you or treat you differently. These people are so uncomfortable confronting or even talking about death that they will avoid anyone or anything that reminds them of their own mortality.

This was arguably the worst part for me. Supposed friends distanced themselves and I learned to hide my loss because being honest meant awkward stares and uncomfortable silences. Survivors are more than just victims — they’re people.

I wish I had more answers but the truth is I’m not an expert. I’m another college student struggling with loss — I just happen to work for The Daily Texan. If nothing else, remember that death, loss and grief are things that everyone will experience eventually. No matter how isolated you might feel right now, you are not alone. As longhorns, we can — and we will — get through this together.

Jensen is a neuroscience senior from The Woodlands. He is an associate editor. Follow him on Twitter @michaeltangible

Editor's note: The CMHC has published resources on its website for those grieving or otherwise impacted by recent events.