“After reading the headlines, only numbers stay in my mind. Three million. Ten. Six hundred. One. The list goes on and on. We get better at quantifying pain.”

I remember scribbling down these sentences last semester as we all tried to grapple with death. The death of several of our own. The death of millions during the pandemic. The death of Rachael Shaw-Rosenbaum ’24.

At the time, writing a column about this felt so pressing as I observed many problems with the way Yale handled death. But I couldn’t write anything. I couldn’t find the words. I didn’t understand the crushing weight on my chest and the feeling of just floating aimlessly. Camus’ words echoed in my ears: “It doesn’t matter very much whether you die at thirty or at seventy since, in either case, other men and women will naturally go on living, for thousands of years even.”

Very recently, however, the death of a close family member made me realize why I was feeling like this all along. It’s because we are not given the time and space to grieve and process the unimaginable. We go on living as Camus predicts. But not naturally. We are forced to go on living.

When my dad delivered the news of our family member’s death, my mind went blank. I could only say, “I should have known him better” as the sudden sense of guilt came in crushing waves. His absence in my life had never felt so real. I pushed back the tears.

In the midst of everything I had to do, all the assignments, meetings, events, I also felt like I didn’t have the right to feel this way. I didn’t want to share it with my friends, fearing that it would take up their time and put them in a somber state. Asking for extensions on deadlines for personal reasons would make me seem weak or irresponsible. No one needed to know. No one needed to share my pain.

I now realize how flawed this mindset is. Death has, certainly, become a much more isolated experience. We are all expected to deal with it on our own, quickly, without disturbing anyone else. But we are also responsible for perpetuating this expectation. We keep repeating that this year or even just this week has been hard for all of us, but saying it is not the same as processing it. And to process it, it is more than natural to depend on other people and ask for help.

This is a major issue at Yale. After traumatizing events, personal or communitywide, we are expected to continue business as usual. Attend classes. Submit the p-set or essay. Continue studying. It is almost as if tragedy and pain don’t exist in our vocabulary, as if we are robots, quickly processing information without feeling anything. The “it is what it is” mindset is the reason why Camus’ words echoed in my ears at the time and will continue to echo in many more students’ ears.

I then cannot help but ask “How can we even take pride in being a close-knit community when we cannot reflect and grieve together?” When we all know the source of our distress, but cannot really say anything. When the constantly repeated “We are here for each other” is an empty and senseless promise, no different from the desensitizing numbers we read in headlines.

Death is unimaginable. And processing it takes time. It should take time. Coming to this realization is not easy. But we need to actively decide to acknowledge our pain, and choose to reflect and share with friends. It is only then we can start calling ourselves a true community. It is only then we can start to go on living naturally.

SUDE YENILMEZ is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Her column, ‘Piecing Together,’ runs every other Thursday. Contact her at sude.yenilmez@yale.edu