Our youth, our future: Kensey Bergdorf

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WDTV) - In 2015, WVU senior, Kensey Bergdorff, had her world turned upside down when her father passed away suddenly, followed by her grandmother two days later. Kensey was just 19 years old.

"It was earth-shattering, you know? You grow up instantly," she said.

Kensey was unsure how to cope, then a friend offered some advice.

"At their funeral, someone pulled me aside and said, 'You need to write down everything you can remember about them, while you still can.'"

"At some point in everyone's life, they're going to suffer some type of loss and journaling is probably a very good way to help people through that process," said WVU's Senior Associate Dean of Students, Kim Mosby.

So, Kensey started journaling.

"I wrote down everything. When my dad was really sweaty, it made a heart shape on his shirt. My grandma's house always smelled like wood smoke."

The student wanted a way to teach others about grief journaling, so she shared her idea with a WVU professor.

"And she was like, 'This is such a great idea, I'm going to make this happen,'" said Kensey.

Last year, after lots of hard work, Kensey created a Memory Journal Guidebook that WVU can distribute to students on campus. The books provide writing and drawing prompts, activities, and other tips for starting a memory journal.

"We had a lot of students come in right away and pick up some," said Mosby.

"I don't have to carry all these things in my head, I can put them all in a journal," Kensey said.

Kensey's memory journal program has helped dozens of students already and will continue to help other students for years to come.

"I felt really lost before I got into this journaling, so helping other people find [a way to grieve] is everything to me. It was so horrible for me and I don't want anyone else to go through that."

What's up next for Kensey? She wants to start a group for students who use the memory journals. Additionally, she will graduate from WVU in May with two degrees and plans to get her Ph.D.

To find more grief, therapy, and mental health resources at WVU, visit the link at the top, right-hand side of your screen.