Support for the Grieving
It's Ok to Ask for Help
Few things compare to the pain of losing someone you love. While there’s no way to avoid intense feelings of grief, there are healthier ways to come to navigate your loss.
Our counselors specialize in working with college-age individuals and they can offer support in many ways. Counseling sessions are free to currently enrolled students.
Serious loss can be overwhelming. If you, or someone you love, needs support to work through the grieving process the University Church Counseling Center may be a helpful resource.
Join others who have experienced loss and in community find healing and hope.
Actively Moving Forward® (AMF) is a national network created in response to the needs of grieving young adults. Once on their website, you can get connected with support groups targeting college students, young adults, or professionals.
How to Support Someone Who's Grieving
Adapted from "We Get It: Voices of Grieving College Students and Young Adults."
Remain open to hearing about all aspects of someone's grief without pitying the grieving person.
Grief does not end and it is not a linear process. Avoid implying a timeline for grief.
Avoid giving specific advice, tying to "fix them," or trying to make it all better. Avoid making statements that begin with "You should" or "You will." These statements are too directive. Instead you could begin your comments with: "Have your thought about..." or "You might..."
You may think that avoiding the topic is saving the griever from pain, but actually such avoidance can add to their pain. They are thinking about their grief, so when you bring it up you are likely opening an important window that will allow them to share.
Allow for the expression of negative emotions and be able to sit with them--with the griever and with his or her challenging feelings. You do not need to feel pressure to "fix" their feeling.
Display your interest in learning about that person with questions, such as "tell me something special about your deceased loved one."
What can you uniquly offer?
Acknowledge that uniqueness rather than sending messages that there is one right way to grieve or implying that you know more about their grief than they do.
Avoid comments and statements that imply judgment, minimize the griever's experience, or attempt to placate.
Recognize and communicate the fact that grief does not end.
They don't have to be huge gestures.
- Encourage the college student to reach out to others for support.
- Encourage your loved one to consider memorializing their loved one by participating in community service and pledge to participate along with them.
- Avoid making assumptions that someone is doing great and "all better" based on their outward appearances--grieving in an internal process (e.g. feelings, body sensations, and other individual differences) that may never be seen.
- If the grieving student is suicidal, it is your moral and ethical responsibility to find or refer him or her to a mental health professional (National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255).
Making such time is perhaps particularly important in the college environment as grief is counter to the usual focus on growth, learning, and fun.
Advocate for the needs of grieving students through the development of campus policies and encouragement of support groups for grieving students (e.g., AMG Support Network; www.studentsoramf.org).
There is only so much you can do until the individual is ready. It is important not to be overbearing for them. Assure them that you are available, then be available and approachable.
Empathy vs. Sympathy
Don't know what to do to help someone you love who is grieving. Extend empathy which is a skill that can bring people together and make people feel included, while sympathy creates an uneven power dynamic and can lead to more isolation and disconnection.
Organize a meal train
Organize a meal train for a colleague who has experienced loss. Check with them first to know what meals, frequency of meals, etc. is most helpful.