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Grief and Loss

Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss. College students can experience many losses, such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a significant relationship, or an ending or new beginning can trigger grief. Each person has a unique and individual way of grieving and it is important to honor your needs and own timeline. Healthy grieving is important, as it allows for a newfound sense of peace, and brings us in touch with our own and other’s humanity.

Symptoms of Grief and Loss

  • Denial, shock, numbness or surprise, which can serve to protect you
  • Anger, fearfulness, powerlessness
  • Remorse, regret and guilt – you may think of unfinished business
  • Sadness, depression – includes loneliness, isolation, feeling hopeless
  • Anxiety, increased inability to focus or manage stress
  • Relief: in some cases, a person may have suffered for a period of time, and we may feel some relief in the fact that that suffering has ended
  • Physical ailments, such as headaches, stomachaches, tightness in the chest

Contrary to what some people may tell you, there is no “order” to how you should grieve. Each person will move through such feelings in their own time and in their own order. It is the grieving process that allows us to move forward and learn to accept the reality of the loss.

What You Can Do When You Are Grieving

One of the most often asked questions is, “What can I do to get over this?” We have a few suggestions for what you can do to help you through the process:

  • Feel your feelings

    Emotions are normal and healthy. They can seem frightening when they occur unexpectedly, and that’s understandable. Everyone experiences emotions when grieving, and it’s okay to let them show. While this may sometimes be especially hard, we encourage you to find someone you trust to express those feelings with, whether a friend, family member, or counselor.
  • Allow yourself to cry

    You may find yourself crying when alone, but we encourage you to find someone you trust to cry with; it may even make you feel better. Sometimes, a hug can make all the difference!
  • Pay attention to yourself

    Listen to yourself. You will often know what you need. If you are uncertain, then listen to a trusted family member or friend who will help you keep reality in focus.
  • Set limits

    Don’t be afraid to say “no” to yourself or to others. Remember to be forgiving of yourself, and don’t expect too much of yourself right now.
  • Write a letter

    Some people will find it helpful to write a letter to the person who has passed. In it you can write down your feelings about that person, about what you will miss, and have a chance to say goodbye. You can share this with someone you trust, or keep it to yourself.
  • Remember to laugh

    As difficult as it may seem, there are still good things happening in your life. We encourage you to pay attention to those times that you feel happy or something makes you laugh.
  • Reflection

    Take some time to reflect on your friend’s life and the good times you shared together. You can also do this with other people who spent time with your friend and share the experience as a group.
  • Find comfort in your faith

    If faith is something that is important to you, you may wish to turn to your belief system for comfort. Speak with a minister, rabbi, or clergyperson. Visit your church or honor your friend in your own way.
  • Take care of yourself physically

    When grieving, it is very important to keep up your strength. Eat healthy, balanced meals and make sure you are going to bed at a reasonable time. Give your body the energy it needs to heal.
  • Plan activities

    When you think you are ready, make plans for things that you enjoy, such as taking a yoga class, going for a walk, and spending time with friends. Give yourself something to look forward to, and do your best to get back to living your life.
  • Focus on survival and hope

    Initially, you may believe you are doing everything you can just to survive the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Things may not be the same again in the future, but remember that, in time, you WILL feel better. Some days may be harder than others, but you will slowly (at your own pace) feel stronger and able to manage the loss.
  • Ask for help

    Don’t be afraid to turn to others to help you through. Think about how good it feels for you to be there for the people you care about, and let them return the favor. Talk with your family. Check in with your friends. Or seek out a professional counselor.

When to See a Counselor

Sometimes the grieving process becomes too much to manage on your own. You may find yourself experiencing severe changes in behavior, or intense physical reactions such as sleep and appetite disturbances. In extreme cases, our own feelings of loss may result in a preoccupation with death and contemplation of suicide. If you are experiencing these types of problems, you may want to seek out a professional counselor who can help you manage your symptoms and refer you to the appropriate resources. Contact the Counseling Center at 215.895.1415 or to schedule an appointment.

Online Resources

The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.