Centre Students of Ailing Mothers and Fathers chapter supports grieving students
February 16, 2012 By Elizabeth Trollinger
Ailing Mothers and Fathers after experiencing a loss in his own
family. Above, Cho smiles with Jen Abraham ’12, Lan Nguyen
’12 and Louisa Akin ’12.
College should be the best four years of anyone’s life — but many students find themselves confronting the loss of a loved one at some point during their college careers. A recently established Centre chapter of the national organization Students of Ailing Mothers and Fathers (AMF) can help students through the grief process.
“Students of AMF is a national organization devoted to providing peer support for college students grieving the illness or death of a loved one, and empowering the campus community to take action through service,” says Patrick Cho ’13, who established Centre’s chapter of AMF. “Each chapter is divided in two parts: a support group and a service group.”
The support aspect of the organization allows students to connect with their peers on a deep level.
“The support group is completely run, and led, by students, and is open to any student who has lost a loved one — a parent, sibling, grandparent, best friend,” Cho says. “It’s not professional counseling. The support group is just a place where students who are grieving the loss of, or caring for, a loved one can share their own experiences and be supported in a positive and completely confidential environment.”
Students of AMF at Centre also completes service projects in which the whole community is welcome to participate.
“The service projects throughout the year are an exciting opportunity to do something to help our community and for causes important to our chapter. It’s also a great chance for the friends of the bereaved student,” Cho says. “So many people genuinely want to help but don’t know how. The service project gives them that chance.
“This approach is not only empowering for the bereaved, but it also has a positive impact on the community at large and allows friends who would otherwise not know how to support their grieving friend an opportunity to take action,” Cho says.
Cho established Students of AMF at Centre after experiencing personal loss of his own.
“My mother had ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, and I took a leave of absence for three semesters to spend time with my family and help with her care. She died in March of last year,” says Cho. “One of the hardest things for me during my mother’s illness was the feeling of isolation — I didn’t know anyone my own age who could understand what I was going through. Most other resources I found were geared either toward adults or toward younger children; no one was addressing the unique challenges of dealing with death while in college. As soon as I heard about Students of AMF, I knew that I wanted to start a chapter at Centre.”
Despite feeling alone in his grief, Cho knew that other students at Centre were dealing with loss — and the seclusion it brought.
“Research shows that 22 to 33 percent of college students are within one year of grieving the death of a close friend or family member. Our campus is no exception,” Cho says. “It’s been called a ‘silent epidemic,’ because no one really talks about death or expects to have to deal with it while in college. One of the legacies of this group would be to promote awareness that this does happen, to your friends, and that there is help out there from other students just like you.”
Cho was initially drawn to Students of AMF because of the support group and the sense of community that comes with it.
“The support group was exactly what I was looking for. This experience is so far beyond the realm of experience of most people our age that they can’t really comprehend what it’s like,” he says. “It was so helpful to be able to talk with people my own age who actually understood the challenges loss brings.”
Kathy Miles, the College’s director of counseling and faculty advisor for Students of AMF, has witnessed Cho’s passion for the organization.
“Patrick loves to talk about the needs that this group meets on a busy campus, where students have difficulty finding time and space to express the sadness and do the grieving necessary after a difficult loss,” says Miles. “I can’t say enough about his commitment to turning his loss into service to others.”
For Cho, the most important aspect of Students of AMF is the way it brings people together.
“Students of AMF has filled a niche at Centre. We’re a small school, and most people know, or at least recognize, everyone else. Yet death is never discussed. It’s astonishing to see how many people attend support group meetings that I had no idea has experienced a loss,” he says. “One of the most valuable aspects of Students of AMF has been the ability to connect people who share this common bond and support one another. The more we grow, the more apparent it is just how important Students of AMF is on campus.”
Cho is currently featured on the homepage of the national Students of AMF website. To read his story, click here.
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Centre College, founded in 1819 and chosen to host its second Vice Presidential Debate in 2012, is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges, at 42nd in the nation, and ranks 27th for best value among national liberal arts colleges. Forbes magazine ranks Centre 34th among all the nation’s colleges and universities and has named Centre in the top five among all institutions of higher education in the South for three years in a row. Centre is also ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News for its study abroad program. For more, click here.