Helping College Students Cope with Grief & Loss: AfterTalk Pandemic Weekly 5.18.22

By Jessica Fender

Coping with a loss is difficult, no matter how strong of a person you may be. Losing a parent, a sibling, a friend, or someone you’ve just known as an acquaintance can leave its mark on you. Only recently, studies show that more than 140,000 children in the US have lost a primary or secondary caregiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic.students cope with grief AfterTalk Grief Support

Whether you’re a high school or a college student, such loss can have fundamental effects on your well-being and academic performance. How do you cope with loss and still manage to cover your assignments and exams so that you don’t fall behind on your studies?

1. Cope with the Initial Shock of Loss
The first thing you need to understand about loss is that it will shock your being, your inner self. The shock, or the realization, that the person that passed won’t be in your life anymore can be difficult to accept. If you’re an empathetic person by nature, the shock will be that much stronger and you’ll have to react to it fast.

Understand that what you’re feeling is okay and that the initial jolt you’re experiencing will pass over time. As you try to cope with the news of the loss, you will slowly realize what just happened. Everyone will experience “shock” in their ways, so make sure that you’re close to someone you trust to help you when it happens. Even if you’re on the phone or video call, don’t be alone when you find out about the loss and communicate your thoughts to the other person as the shock slowly subsides.

2. Don’t Rush It, Give Yourself Time
Grieving is something that will seep away from your energy and make you feel sad – that’s okay. The fact that you feel this way means that you’ve deeply cared about the person you’ve lost, be it a close friend or a college colleague.
There isn’t a formula to coping with grief or loss and it will always come down to your mechanisms for it. What do you typically do when you’re feeling down? How do you react to negative situations? Try and remember the last time you’ve felt this way and how you coped with it back then. Reach out to a family member or a friend you can talk to about this openly as grieving is as much about communication as it is about contextualizing the emotions you’re feeling right now.

3. Keep Yourself Busy
While it’s more of a band-aid solution, keeping yourself busy with academic assignments like essays or research papers can help you cope with loss. students cope with grief AfterTalk Grief SupportWhether you study business, law, healthcare, or any other field, you’re bound to have some assignments lingering in the background.
Try to focus enough to do some research, gather resources, read, or even write a paper for a few hours. You can use free writing samples as a reference so that you can manage your assignments more successfully. Being busy can be a good mechanism for grieving and coping with loss as it will help direct your attention and energy to something productive and worthwhile.

4. Try and Think Positively

As you go through grief, you should try and think about the person you’ve just lost and think at least a bit positively. Was the person you’ve lost ill? Did they have an easy life? Were they loved by their friends and family? Think of all the good things the person experienced in life and how those things made their existence better and more enjoyable.

You should also think about yourself in the same context and about the things you can do to remember them. Do you know what their favorite food or their favorite bar was? You can do simple things to commemorate someone you’ve been close to so that your coping with loss becomes a bit easier. Learning to remember the person by the good they’ve done since holding grudges doesn’t help anyone, especially because the object of the grudge or negative sentiment isn’t in your life anymore.

5. Channel your Grief through Creativity

Some students can choose to channel their grief and loss through creative endeavors. There are several ways for you to cope with these feelings creatively, both in academia and outside of it. Many famous artists have indeed used the same technique to produce mesmerizing works of art over the years. These can help you not only cope but use these negative feelings to express your inner self through art. Some of the ways you can do this include:

* Writing poetry, poems, and essaysstudents cope with grief AfterTalk Grief Support
* Painting and/or drawing
* Multimedia art such as videos and animation
* Writing and performing songs and/or musical pieces
* Join different clubs or projects on/off-campus
* Basing academic assignments on grief and loss

None of these mechanisms are universal and you should explore what works and doesn’t work for you. If nothing else, they’ll help keep you busy and ensure that you’ve spent your time grieving somewhat productively. Even if your creative products never see the proverbial light of day, it’s always a good idea to do something creative when feeling sad or emotionally distraught.

Learning to Cope with Grief and Loss
Nobody should ever be forced to learn how to cope with grief or loss. The unfortunate reality of the world we live in is that we will inevitably lose some of the people we care about deeply. Being a student means that you’re also working on your future at the same time while coping with grief and loss.
Do what you can to still do your assignments and try to communicate what happened to you to your professors. Many will be very understanding and supportive of what you’re going through and will try and find ways to help you, both personally and academically. While the process won’t happen overnight, you’ll inch ever closer to being able to be yourself again, before you’ve faced grief and loss.

Every Wednesday we will be publishing Pandemic Weekly for, we hope, not too long. We invite you to submit your thoughts, essays, poems or songs. Please send to To see past Pandemic Weeklies, CLICK HERE



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