Dear Hokie Nation,
This is an open letter to the grieving Hokie fans and alumni especially my friends. I (Gregg Cobert, James Madison ‘03) understand this loss (JMU 21, VT 16) is devastating and you are beginning an emotional grieving process. I mean the “Chokies” errrrr Hokies began the game with a 10-0 lead and led throughout much of the game. In fact, even when JMU took the lead, there were dropped passes in the end zone and fumbles amongst many other miscues. I also understand the initial hurt began on Labor Night in Landover, Maryland when Boise State drove down the field to win 33-30 after Virginia Tech had rallied from 17-0 to take the lead in the 4th. I was at FedEx field so I saw the carnage and morning after effects of the various alumni and fans. So as a JMU alum, I am here to help with this difficult time.
Stage 1: Shock & Denial
I spoke to many of you after the events unfolded in Blacksburg on Saturday with the Dukes and you are still in shock and can’t believe what happened. This is a normal coping mechanism. Shock actually helps provide emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once.
Stage 2: Pain & Guilt
Once the shock factor has worn off and the denial subsides, suffering of unbelievable proportions sets in. It becomes excruciating and almost unbearable. Now medical professionals say that you need to experience this pain fully to be able to move to stage 3. It is also important not to use alcohol or drugs during this time to escape even though it might seem easier that way.
Stage 3: Anger & Bargaining
Once frustration dissipates, anger is there, and you may lash out and make irrational arguments like wanting to get rid of Frank Beamer. Please, it is important to control this because it can do irreparable damage. Firing Beamer is not the answer to this problem. If you want to see how a similar situation played out, check out your rivals in Charlottesville and see how they handled the George Welch situation. However, it is also important to let out all of the bottled up emotion that is welling inside. As a sports fan, in general, I know I have asked, “Why me?” when dealing with losses from my sports teams. You may also try to bargain with a higher being (i.e. I will do whatever you want but just make this hurt and pain go away).
Stage 4: Depression, Reflection, Loneliness
Just when your friends and family may think you should be getting on with your life, a period of sad reflection may overwhelm you. This is also normal so don’t be rushed by others who don’t know what it is like. During this period, you finally realize the magnitude of your loss (only the 2nd ranked team to ever lose to a team from the FCS, thank you Michigan for being the first in 2007), and it depresses you (the team is 0-2, JMU has 11 votes for the FBS poll when they play in the FCS, and the Hokies received 0). This time period is marked by periods of isolation and reflecting on the good times the team has brought you (’99 national runner up, 17 years straight of a bowl berth, 6 straight years of 10 wins ). Feelings of emptiness and despair may also be part of this stage.
Stage 5: The Upward Turn
You will begin to adjust to life having lost to one of your little brothers, James Madison, and the headlines will lessen and sports talk radio will move to the next big story. The depression slowly begins to lift.
Stage 6: Reconstruction & Working Through
As you become more functional and less desensitized to the loss, your mind begins to work again and you begin looking for realistic solutions for the problem.
Stage 7: Acceptance & Hope
You have finally reached stage 7 where you are learning to accept and deal with the reality of the situation. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never truly return to the fan that existed before this tragedy but you will move forward. Eventually you will be able to think about the Hokies football team without the searing pain of the loss to JMU and you will anticipate good times to come and find joy in the college football experience again.
I truly hope these 7 stages of the grieving process help you during this difficult time and know that I and all JMU fans are here for you during this process.
Duke Dog forever,
Gregg Cobert, Class of 2003