Handling Grief and Loss in College
College life at any four-year university is a tough time for any student. Meeting the demands of professors, keeping a high GPA, paying for tuition, getting that internship or full-time job are some of the few things that are floating through the minds of college students. Now imagine a college experience where these factors as well as the loss of a loved one come into play. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many students, including myself.
Grief, although a natural part of life, is a topic most people avoid. I used to as well, until my 17-year-old sister died in a car accident in December 2018. One second, I was doing everything right, leading an ordinary life with my friends and family. Then, in the blink of an eye everything changed. Life as I knew it was broken and it just didn’t make sense anymore. Anger, confusion, and sadness suffocated me until I couldn’t really feel anymore. Dealing with the death of a loved one can be particularly difficult for college students, especially if they are away from home – trust me, I know. I felt like I was not grieving properly because of the overwhelming energy grief requires on top of the demands of attending classes, focusing on homework and participating in the social life that college offers. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, consider these suggestions of healthy ways to cope that, in time, can renew you and permit you to move on.
Take care of yourself
Get plenty of rest, eat well, exercise and do anything else to stay in the best physical and emotional shape possible. When you’re grieving, it’s very easy to get sick and let your health decline. While you can’t control your circumstances, you can always control yourself and what you do.
Take steps to find support
Reach out to those who can help you. You may have a classmate or roommate who will be glad to listen and comfort you. Take advantage of your school’s counseling services. Even if you decide counseling isn’t right for you, they will be able to suggest other forms of coping with your loss. Talking to anyone helps alleviate the feeling that you’re alone.
Deal with your academic life
Depending on your academic goals and mindset, immersing yourself in school might help. Be careful not to use academics as a means of hiding from your tragedy, but it might work as a short-term way of coping.
Find a new normal
Grieving is a difficult process and a challenging transition. For the person grieving, they are not simply trying to get back to normal; they are trying to find a new normal after experiencing the loss of a loved one. I recognize that grief changed me. It’s hard. No doubt it is life-changing. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. The situation as a whole crushed me, there’s really no other way to put it, but it just forced me to become a stronger person. I became a different person after her death and a decent amount of that has to do with just growing up in addition to how I developed as a person because of this hardship.
If you are a student grieving, know that it’s OK to not want to jump right back into normal student activities. You’re dealing with something greater than that and many students won’t understand. If you know a student who’s grieving, know that this is an extremely trying time for them being alone trying to deal with these emotions. Simply saying, “I’m here for you” will go a long way. As someone who has lost a loved one way too soon, I tell you, don’t assume there will be a tomorrow. Cherish today and those around you; you never know when they won’t be around anymore.
Pearson Students: What has helped you cope with loss and grief? Share by commenting below.