Dealing With Grief as a College Freshman

As a freshman, you’ve probably been dreaming about beginning college life for most of your high school life. Feeling so ready for independence and new adventures, you did everything you could think of to prepare. You made sure to decorate your dorm so it felt like home, you tried to get involved with your campus to make instant friends, you filled your schedule with classes your high school didn’t offer and you just tried to take on a new persona.

But there are some things you can never quite prepare for when gearing up for college, such as the death of a loved on back home.

It’s not fair. You didn’t travel far from home just to suddenly be hit with an unbearable feeling of homesickness. All you can think about is burrowing under the covers in your childhood bedroom and wallow in privacy. Unfortunately, that’s not an option right now. Even though you’re not there, life still goes on back home. Despite receiving this heartbreaking news, your life at school has to go on — projects need to be done, assignments need to be worked on and exams need to be studied for.

Just because you have to stay focused, doesn’t mean it’s easy. So, here are a few tips for coping with this the death of a loved one while you are away from home.

1. Don’t bottle it up.

If you compress grief, it’s going to consume you. The only way to clear your head and feel just a smidge of relief is to have a good cry and talk about it. Confide in one of the friends you’ve made, call your friends from home, go to a counseling center or turn to anyone who is willing to lend a shoulder to cry on. You will only hurt yourself more if you pretend that the death didn’t happen at all.

2. Tell your dean and professors.

Your school is not going to make you go through this alone. As long as you’re upfront with your dean and professors, they are likely to work with you. No, you can't just drop off the face of the Earth and stop completing assignments without any repercussions, but if you fill your professors in on your family situation, they can change deadlines, work with you one-on-one, etc. And by telling your dean, you can miss a class or two and not have those absences count against you. Grief may make you feel like your world is splitting at the seams, but your grades don’t have to.

3. Keep busy.

As much as it feels like time has stopped after receiving this news, you are still a college student who has work to do. It’s okay to wallow — it’s actually a healthy part of dealing with grief — but in order to not let your grief overpower you, you need to continue with your daily routine. Don’t ditch class. Don’t put off homework. Don’t stop studying. Whoever it is that you lost — mother, father, sibling, grandparent, friend — they would not want you to drop everything that you’ve been working so hard for.

4. Go home.

There are so many times in life where you don’t get the relief of closure. Funerals (or whichever service your faith practices) gives you the rare opportunity to say goodbye, find some peace and begin to heal. Though it is nearly impossible to go home for long periods of time, it is important to go home to receive comfort and support from people who are feeling the same sadness as you are. Anyone who is dealing with the death of a friend or family member deserves some time to collect themselves. Often, the best way to do this is go home.

I am currently living through this emotional time right now and want nothing more than to go home. But instead I’m here because I have to prepare myself for finals. It’s indescribably hard and tiring to keep going, but it’s important to remember that it can only get better — it has to.


Dedicated to my grandfather, Aldo Andreoli.