Hang in there

By Arjan Derks - 23 March 2022

When life knocks you down, how to get up

Let’s not beat around the bush, you have been through some very difficult stuff with the deaths of Boris and Axel, earlier this year. In this column, I aim to give you some perspective, and I hope that this perspective helps you find ways to deal with the nastiness.

I’m not going to pretend that I know the right words to console you in this situation. Simply, because these words don’t exist. Losing people, and you always seem to lose the best people you know a couple of decades too young, is something hard and painful to deal with, and people should find their own words to express what they feel, why they feel it, and how they want to deal with it.

Finding these words can be a very tough undertaking. It is tough to really make sense of what happened, let alone find ways to express it. It can be really tough to explain just what kinds of thoughts and feelings went through your head when you know the person you’re telling it to has never been through something similar. It can feel alienating, knowing that you want to explain something so much, but there is so little opportunity to be heard and understood properly.

Next to the loss and death of friends, most things seem rather meaningless by comparison. In the ‘grander scheme’, your calculus grades are much less important than any amount of grief and pain felt. In these kinds of situations, people will be at their ‘weakest’, most vulnerable, and most authentically close to their emotions and self. This makes that these heavy moments have so much meaning. For if you really want to call someone a friend, be sure to stand next to someone in moments like this, when it really matters. However, that is not to say that more ‘trivial’ things have any less meaning. More importantly, make sure that negativity and pain are not the only things that have meaning in your life.

The pain and loss are also connected to the way that you remember people. Truth be told, I didn’t know either Axel or Boris, but if I want to learn more about them, I’d say that funny anecdotes and ‘life-of-the-party’ attitudes are a great way to get to know them. And for your sake, and mental health, I would really want to recommend you to remember Boris and Axel for the characters they were, rather than the gaps they left behind.

You all are handling it very well, as far as I am concerned. Though, that doesn’t have to count for much in this process. It will be an individual journey for each and every one of you to come to terms with what happened, and this won’t happen overnight, this won’t come as easy as you think. I hope for you that you will find your peace with it, but the first months are just the first steps in a long journey. And throughout this individual journey, it can make both your character and your connections to your friends deeper if you support each other. It has the benefit of keeping the connecting and kind characters you lost in your circle of friends alive and present.

Nevertheless, if you feel like you need it, I really recommend you go see a professional in mental health. Having the support of your friends can provide a safe environment in which to discuss and deal with issues that you have, but in order to structurally help you get through these kinds of issues better, experience and camaraderie are no substitute for professionals with good tools. 

It is up to you how you read this, how you want to deal with these recommendations, and with the journey that lies ahead of you. Again, find ways that work for you. But before you consider forgetting what you read, a final bit of wisdom: it can hurt a lot longer, and a lot worse, if you don’t step up and deal with the darkness. Dealing with it, with proper and appropriate strategies, will help you save years of lasting happiness, prevent lots of pain, loneliness and misunderstanding and make you a stronger person for doing it.


Intermate is the study association of the bachelor Technical Innovation Sciences, the majors Sustainable Innovation and Psychology & Technology and the masters Human Technology Interaction and Innovation Sciences.


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