The next school year after my dad's death, I got a fresh start with new students.
Being a high schooler in a relatively small school, it felt like everyone knew that my dad had died. It changed what people thought of me, made kids stare at me, and was not something that improved my school day.
But, that was the year my dad died. At the beginning of my next school year, I was anxious, excited, and ready to get back to school. And, with a new school year came something I hadn't thought about: new students. New students = new beginnings. The 10 or 15 new kids that my school got each year most likely didn't know that my dad had died. It was truly a new year.
That year of high school created a habit that I still use today: talk first, grief later. It's a simple concept and has helped me a lot. When I meet new people, I don't open conversations with, "Hi, I'm Natalie and my dad is dead. What's your name?" (It's not like I would actually open up a conversation like that, I'm not that awkward.) Instead, I wait until one of three things:
1. I know the person well and I want them to know about my dad.
2. They ask about my family.
3. It comes up some other way.
While that may seem simple, it's done a lot for me. It's saved me from a lot of awkward conversations, pity faces, and helped me feel a lot more comfortable in conversations with new people.
When I met the first new student of my sophomore year, I opened with, "Hi, I'm Natalie, who are you?" And, I got my chance for a fresh start.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by Javier Trueba.