Handling Grief and Loss in College

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Michelle Gomez
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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.

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