How to Cope with Grief in College

             If you ask a college student about student life, you might get many positive answers about school pride and the freedom of college. These answers may change based on where you go to school, but the one thing all students would agree on? College is stressful. For some, it’s one of the most stressful times in your life. So when something tragic happens, the chaotic schedules you maintain can make coping with grief even more difficult. While everyone grieves in a personal way, Pastor/family and relationship therapist Betty Rogers offered this advice to struggling students.

1. Use your school’s resources

At Clemson, we have access to Counselling and Psychological Services, or CAPS for short. This service can be extremely helpful, because sometimes it can be too difficult to cope on your own. The services CAPS offers can be tailored to your personal needs as well. They offer a grief group to cope with emotions in a group setting. They also have traditional counselling where you can speak with a therapist one on one, especially if there is a specialist in your area of need available. This can be a one time appointment to help you grasp what’s happened and get assistance in drafting emails about your situation to your teacher, or it can be recurring appointments. Whatever kind of assistance you might need, CAPS can help you, and you should never feel ashamed for reaching out.


2. Communicate with your professors

Depending on your situation and personality, you may not want to discuss what has happened. However, being able to reach out to your professors and talking a little about your situation can help them better understand you and gives them the chance to help. Some teachers have policies, especially when it comes to losing an immediate family member, where they will work with you on your deadlines. Even if they aren’t able to be flexible, more often than not they will be willing to donate their time to help you catch up on work. It never hurts to reach out for help, and becoming a better communicator can open the door for people to give the assistance you need. Which leads me to my next point:


3. Communicate with your support system

Whether this is your family, a church leader, your roommates, your Greek brothers or sisters; anyone who helps you in tough times can be a support system. It’s so important to lean on other people, and confiding in those close to you can really take the burden off your shoulders.


4. Take some “me time”

One great technique for coping with difficult emotions is mindfulness or meditation. For those who want to get into something like that, but don’t know where to start, there are many great apps that help, like Aura and Headspace. For some people, this could also mean turning to your faith. Pouring yourself into self-reflection and growth can be a great outlet, and you deserve to have this time to work on yourself.


5. Rethink your schedule

It’s easy to get caught up in organizations or events and over committing your time. In fact, some people over commit as a coping mechanism to avoid their emotions. However, it’s important to be honest with yourself on what is possible for you and skim your schedule down. If you push yourself too hard and burn out, not only will your grades suffer but so will your mental health. At the end of the day, being a member of ten different academic organizations isn’t going to get you much further than taking care of yourself and your school commitments.


           Unfortunately, there’s no cheat sheet on dealing with grief and no guarantee that any of these tips will solve your problems. It’s such a personal process working through grief, and there’s no guide to what’s normal. The most important thing at the end of the day is taking care of yourself, and focusing on your own needs. Everything else in life will follow.