Dealing With Family Grief Away From Home

            Some things in life are inevitable. This includes paying taxes, breathing, and dying. None of that ends when we go to college, but it’s easy to forget that, while we take finals, our parents pay taxes. We forget to breathe in between our ever-growing stockpiles of homework. When you get a call from home about the death of a friend or relative, you can’t forget about the world that keeps on spinning outside the campus.

            Grief is an unexplainable and lengthy process. Some people are confronted with death for the first time while at college. Others have encountered it many times before, but grieving in college is a species all on its own. Grief is for some people immensely harder away from those who also grieving.

            It’s not always possible to return home for funerals.

            It’s not always possible for them to admit that they’ve lost someone.

            After losing someone my Freshman year, I was furious. The idea of going to classes and pretending class was as important as my emotions seemed frivolous. This year, as I deal with my third loss since my time at Kenyon, some of those same emotions are returning. Luckily, there are options and outlets available to our students.

            1. Off Campus Resources: You can leave campus for funerals, services and time to grieve. The faculty is happy to accommodate loss by providing extensions, notes from missed lectures and help in office hours.

            Family and friends who knew the individual usually provide more comfort than those who are “sorry for your loss.” Many struggle with feeling alone in anger and sadness in light of death, and need to find solidarity instead of sympathy in order to come to terms. If you need to get off campus, do not feel like you have to say. You have the right to take care of your feelings and those who matter to you.

            2. On Campus Resources: Sometimes returning home is overwhelming, unreasonable or out of our control. In this case, you are still allowed time to reconcile what you’re going through. Communication with professors is key in this situation. Although it may take a lot of courage to say that you feel unable to attend classes for a day or two while you process, it can be beneficial. We are students, but we are also humans. So is the faculty.

            Their goal is not to increase you pain, especially in times of loss. Most are happy to grant extensions, provide advice and whatever else they can. In order to get what we need, it is up to a student to ask.

            Similarly, sometimes you need to ask for professional help, or at least a third party’s ear. The counseling center wants to be utilized for precisely these times. One time appointments or reoccurring counseling is available for circumstances of this sort. Long-term grief is normal and rarely ends after the burial. Many students who return home still need to talk about their experiences after coming back to the Hill.

            Talk to a counselor for just a single appointment if you have any urge to do so. It is better to catch what could turn into a long-term struggle early, especially if you lose someone particularly close. The Peer Counselors also lead several small groups dealing with special topics that could specifically relate to you loss and a small group concerning grief.

            Happenings off campus still happen to you when you’re on campus. Whether you choose to stay on campus or not, knowing your resources is the best way to ensure that you can still fully celebrate what happens here at Kenyon.



Image credits:, Karol Keeteman,