Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rethinking What Might Have Been

The first ghost that appeared to Odysseus was that of one of his own sailors, Elpenor, who had died when he fell off the roof of Circe’s palace. He spoke regretfully of the drunken state that had caused him to stumble and fall to his doom. Elpenor entreated Odysseus to give him a proper burial lest his spirit torment the king’s days and haunt his steps. Odysseus swore an oath to provide a suitable wake for his fallen comrade.

If we think about Elpenor’s words, we see that his ghost was full of regret over what might have been. When someone dies in their own world, especially a classmate, it is very common for young people to feel great sorrow and regret over the opportunities they missed to interact with the deceased. These thoughts and emotions can swirl around inside a student and preoccupy their waking hours. The goblins with which we as adult leaders must do battle are known as Regret and Depression.
One of the best ways to help a student in this situation is to give him the opportunity to share his thoughts and feelings, either in a group of his similarly grieving peers or one-on-one with an adult leader. If not given the chance to be freely expressed, these emotions and thoughts can reach a boiling point and cause some serious problems in a young person’s life. Sharing in this manner allows a student the chance to give substance to his feelings and to put words to otherwise amorphous laments and sorrows. Steps should be taken to ascertain who the close friends of the deceased were so that the group can freely share personal memories and stories. These are some ways in which we can help students to slay the monster Regret.

Depression can be defeated through encouraging a grieving student to make forward progress. Suggest new activities in which the young person can become involved. Motivate the student’s friends to come around her during this time. Service projects can be an excellent way to move the student who is sinking into the mire of depression to look beyond her own struggles and toward meeting the needs of others.
What in your life do you regret doing? What do you regret not doing? What changes can you make right now so that you can live your life without regrets?

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