Dealing with Grief in College

The strange thing about going off to college is that the rest of the life you’ve always known doesn’t really stop while you’re away. Your family and friends are still carrying on their lives—apart from yours—and that can be an interesting thing to come to terms with. It also means that you might end up dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one, the loss of a beloved pet, or some other terrible circumstance while away from those you love.

When dealing with grief, it’s important to remember that there’s no one right way to grieve. However, there are some things you can do to cope that are healthier than other things, so it’s a good idea to consider some of the following suggestions when you’re walking through a tough season.

1. Find support

When you hear about the loss of a family member or some other tragedy and you’re miles away from home, that might mean you’re walking through a season of grief without your loved ones near you. It’s important that you find some support during that kind of tough season—someone to talk to, someone to be with you, and remind you of hope. While it might feel hard, reach out to your social network at school and connect with a friend or roommate. You might want to talk with your RA or even a professor if you’ve developed a relationship with one.

Don’t forget that you always have methods of communication, so spending time talking on the phone with the rest of your family or FaceTiming friends from high school can do a lot to make you feel connected and give you the support you need.

2. Visit your college or university’s counseling center

Grief can be a complicated emotion, and it’s a smart idea to make an appointment with your school’s counseling center if you’re going through something tough. Sometimes, having a professional there to listen to your processing and ask good questions, as well as suggest healthy coping mechanisms, can be a really healing and helpful thing.

If you’re feeling out of control or so upset that you can hardly function, don’t be afraid to check in with your school’s medical center as soon as possible and seek help.

3. Practice self-care

When you’re walking through grief, it can feel really difficult or be easy to forget to do really basic things, like eat meals or get ready in the morning. Make sure you’re still considering your needs during this season, and don’t be afraid to say no to outings or other activities if you need to spend some time by yourself. On the flip side, it’s important you take care of your emotional health too, so don’t hole yourself away in your dorm room in isolation.

Exercising to work through tough emotions, going for a walk with a friend, or watching a funny movie can all be ways to both take care of yourself and help you get through a difficult season.

4. Deal with your academic responsibilities

Depending on your loss, you may need to adjust the amount of time you spend with your academics or take some time away from your studies altogether. Many schools have formal bereavement policies, but it’s a good idea to talk with your professors individually and let them know what’s going on. This can help you with issues like missing class, turning in a paper late, or postponing taking a test or quiz.

Many professors are happy to be a listening ear and help you process how to go about life after a hard loss. They can be great sounding boards for managing the rest of your academic load and what might be the best course of action for you regarding your future in school.

5. Give yourself lots of grace and lean into Christ

Grief takes time. It can often feel like there are days where you’re doing really well after a loss, only to be blindsided by a particularly difficult week. While it may feel like a setback, give yourself grace to go through the process of grief, which can take months and even years to work through.

Psalms 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” During this difficult time, lean into your Father, who cares so deeply for you and whose Holy Spirit will comfort you and surround you on all sides.