Losing a loved one is hard to imagine at any point in a person’s life, especially during college.
Here are some common facts about grief and how it can affect someone.
- Grieving is more intense when the loss seems unusual for the stage of life we are in—and when the person who has died is very significant
- It can become hard to relate to friends because they are less likely to have experienced the same kind of loss at that point in their lives
- Grieving is a natural response to other losses as well—the end of a relationship, moving to a new community, the loss of a pet, a life-threatening illness, or the loss of a much anticipated opportunity
- College is a difficult environment to experience loss; some students may choose to distract themselves with activities to avoid experiencing the unwanted emotions associated with grief
- It is normal to experience a range of emotions in response to loss
- Grieving can free up energy that is associated with that person, object, or experience; until people grieve, they may be unable to redirect that energy elsewhere, as a part of them is still tied to the past
- Grieving is not the same as forgetting or drowning in tears; it allows a person to remember the loss peacefully
Factors that may hinder the healing process include avoidance or minimization of one’s emotions, turning to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, and immersing one’s self in work to avoid feelings.
The grieving process usually consists of five stages, though not everyone experiences them all.
- Denial, numbness, and shock. Protects the individual from experiencing the intensity of the loss.
- Bargaining. Involves reflecting about what could have been done to prevent the loss, preoccupation with ways that things could have been better, and imagining all the things that will never be.
- Depression. May follow after recognizing the true extent of the loss; some individuals may experience symptoms such as sleep and appetite disturbance, crying spells, feelings of loneliness, emptiness, isolation, and self-pity.
- Anger. Occurs when an individual feels helpless and powerless, and results from feeling abandoned.
- Acceptance. Comes with time; healing occurs when the loss becomes integrated into the individual’s life experiences. There is a return to earlier feelings throughout one’s lifetime.
When to Be Concerned
Coping with your own loss
Take quiet time alone to think about moving toward a new equilibrium. Think of it as a transition from who you were before the loss to who you will be after the grieving process. Be patient with yourself, and remember that grief comes in waves, so allow yourself to flow through them, not resist them. In addition, consider these helpful tips:
- Use a journal to record positive memories and document the healing process.
- Create a memory book of the person who has passed.
- Carry a memento such as a piece of jewelry or a good luck charm.
- Be as open as you can be in expressing your feelings—cry, express anger or unfairness.
- Play out the unfinished business of the relationship in your mind; come to a resolution.
- Get support from friends and relatives; tell someone that you trust the story of your loss.
- Consider bereavement groups to share grief with others who have experienced similar losses.
- Focus on what you were able to do, not on what you "should have" or “could have” done.
- Take care of yourself; grief can be fatiguing, pay attention to your physical needs, and get exercise.
- Step back into life; go at your own pace, put off unnecessary decisions, and set achievable goals.
Helping a friend
If you’re concerned about a friend, take action such as calling, sending a card, sharing a hug, or attend the funeral or memorial services of your friend’s loved one. Be available and allow your friend to talk without the fear of judgment. Be a good and patient listener; avoid clichés such as "You have to move on," or "It’s for the best." Encourage the person to take care of him or herself, and always recognize your own limitations—some situations are hard to handle and may require professional assistance.
Services at WPI
If you or someone you know is struggling with grief or loss, the SDCC can provide confidential counseling to help guide you to recovery. Stop by or call 508-831-5540 to schedule an appointment.
The focus of grief counseling is on providing support through the grieving process. There is no right way to grieve, and it can be a slow and emotional process. The aim of counseling is to:
- Understand that loss and grief are a part of life
- Learn to accept the loss by gaining a new perspective
- Provide the skills necessary to cope with the loss
- Lead to psychological growth
- Death, The Final Stage of Growth. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1975 Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth
- On Death and Dying. New York: MacMillan, 1969 Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth
- Beyond Grief: A Guide to Recovering From the Death of a Loved One, by C. Staudacher (1987).
- Grief's Courageous Journey: A Workbook, by S. Caplan and G. Lang (1995).
- How to Survive the Loss of a Love: Fifty-Eight Things to Do When There Is Nothing to Be Done, by M. Colgrove, H.H. Bloomfield, and P. McWilliams (1977).
- When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by H.S. Kushner (1981). Men & Grief , by C. Staudacher (1992).
- The Gift of Grief: Healing the Pain of Everyday Losses, by J.J. Tanner (1976).
- Coming Apart: Why Relationships End and How to Live Through the Ending of Yours, by D.R. Kingma (1987).
- Healing After the Suicide of a Loved One, by A. Smolin and J. Guinan (1993).
- Father Loss: Daughters Discuss the Man That Got Away, by E. Wakerman (1984).
- The Grief Recovery Handbook: A Step-by-Step Program for Moving Beyond Loss, by J.W. James and F. Cherry (1989).
- How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, by T.A. Rando (1988).
We have included links to other websites and we encourage students to evaluate the materials and to use what they find to be helpful. Please keep in mind that WPI cannot assume responsibility for information on other websites.
Information on the web is not intended as a substitute for assistance from the SDCC. For personal assistance, WPI students should contact the SDCC at 508-831-5540 to schedule an appointment with one of our professional staff members.