Finding Hope and Joy in the Sadness

The Charleston School of Law continues to grieve the loss of Katherine “Kat” Westbrook, a 2L law student, who recently passed away unexpectedly.

The news shocked administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The Charleston Law family rallied to honor and celebrate the Westbrook’s life and legacy through public and private services.

In addition, the Office of Career Services called on our partners at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for additional support and care. Tammy Yarnell, an EAP Therapist with the medical university, was on campus to meet with grieving students.

“You have to give yourself a time to feel your feelings,” Yarnell said. “You can do it now or you can do it later, but it’s coming for you.”

There is no set schedule for grief. It comes and goes, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, sometime in waves. Regardless of place and time, Yarnell recommended that we all should “make space,” because it’s inevitable. “When you can, let the emotion come and then let it go. If you keep ignoring it, it will just get bigger until you can’t focus on anything else.”

“Why do I not feel like doing anything? Why do I want a party every chance I get? That's the challenging thing. If you're just not yourself, it's probably worth just having a conversation.”

Not only is grief unpredictable, but it’s also precarious in nature. Grief can manifest itself in a variety of ways including sadness, irritability, restlessness, anger and so on.

“Why do I not feel like doing anything? Why do I want a party every chance I get?” Yarnell asked rhetorically. “That’s the challenging thing. If you’re just not yourself, it’s probably worth just having a conversation.”

Yarnell recommended that students who are grieving the loss of a friend, colleague or family member consider a handful of helpful options to help you grieve:

  • Put your feelings on paper: “It’s useful to journal, even if you don’t want to or don’t feel like talking about it, just put it on paper — somewhere. Even writing a letter to that person about what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, what you miss, what you wish you’d said.”
  • Get physical: “It helps to be intentional about doing something. Physical exercise is probably the best, most efficient, stress reliever.”
  • Experience hope: “Go out and find something beautiful about being alive in the world today. Even if that’s very literal. My brother lost his wife at 39, it was unexpected. I said those words to him, and he took it literally. He went on Facebook and started posting pictures of street art. He would literally go out and look for something beautiful, take a photo and post it. It can be helpful to get outside of your own head.”
  • Find joy: “Don’t feel guilty about having joy. A lot of great things are going to happen to you, but are not going to happen for that person, but you still get to enjoy them. You don’t have to feel guilty about that. I know there’s a lot of awful things happening in the world. I don’t think it’s easy for us to get into the habit of allowing yourself some joy to help carry you through the hard spots.”

Charleston School of Law and the Medical University of South Carolina are partners to offer counseling services to students. This service is confidential and available to all students enrolled in both the full-time and part-time programs at the School of Law.

All appointments are held at MUSC with trained professionals. If counseling services are needed, please contact the Associate Dean of Students at (843) 377-1104 or MUSC directly at (843) 792-2848.


The Charleston School of Law is an ABA-accredited law school nationally recognized for its student-centric culture. Our faculty and staff are committed to preparing you for success both in the classroom and in the legal profession.

  • The Princeton Review ranks Charleston School of Law professors second in the country for faculty accessibility (2021)
  • Charleston School of Law faculty ranked among the top of The Princeton Review’s list of Best Professors in the nation (2016-2018)
  • Experiential Learning: Charleston School of Law students have access to more than 150 externship sites, creating opportunities for experiential learning in the legal field.
  • Community Service: Charleston School of Law students have performed more than 241,000 community service hours (2004-current).
  • Students have won the National Tax Moot Court Championship for seven consecutive years (2012-2018)

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