Grief is a normal, and often deeply painful, reaction to a significant loss. The loss may be sudden or expected and may involve losing a loved one, family member, friend, employee, colleague, pet, or a job. Generally, people experience a mix of emotions and feelings associated with loss. Grief reactions and emotions typically are overwhelming and it can take longer to mourn that you may expect or want. The experience of grief varies from person to person. Some common reactions to grief are listed below, but this is not an exhaustive list.
Common Grief Reactions
- Emotions: Anger, overwhelming sadness, irritability, depression, guilt, anxiety, shock, helplessness, numbness, loneliness, feeling abandoned, panic, confusion, embarrassment
- Physical Reactions: Low energy, headaches, muscle weakness, emptiness in stomach, nausea, shaking, trembling, shortness of breath
- Thoughts: Disbelief or denial, obsessive thoughts, forgetfulness, preoccupation with the deceased’s life
- Behaviors: Problems with eating and sleeping, social withdrawal, absent-mindedness, dreams and nightmares, difficulty concentrating, crying
No one is expected to deal with a significant loss on their own and it is recommended that you seek support when dealing with loss. It is recommended that you seek professional help to cope with your loss if you find that your grief is persisting in a way that feels intrusive to your life or functioning in school, work, or your relationships.
Strategies for Coping with Grief
- Give yourself permission to grieve. Acknowledge and accept all feelings, positive and negative.
- Allow quiet time alone to reflect and experience your thoughts and feelings.
- Talk to people in your support network about your loss or, if you don’t want to talk about the loss, find comfort in talking about other things with the people you love.
- Delay making major decisions and changes in your life.
- Prioritize sleep, nutrition and exercise, and avoid alcohol or other substances.
- Express your feelings in writing. Journaling can be an important tool in the healing process.
- Talk with a member of the clergy or a spiritual advisor.
- Consider joining a support group for people who have experienced loss.
- Allow yourself to cry. Tears not only offer an emotional release but also a physical release.
- Participate in rituals to say goodbye or find ways to maintain connection with who you lost. Ceremonies—such as funerals or memorial services—may help you move toward accepting and integrating loss.
- Accept help from others who want to support you.
- Accept that there will be some differences in the way you go about your daily routine and your efficiency with school and other tasks.
- Allow yourself to enjoy some good times without feeling guilt.
- Plan for special days such as holidays or birthdays, which can sometimes feel more difficult.
- Consider seeking professional help.
The Counseling Center has services available for those who are experiencing a significant loss or coping with grief:
- Emergency services are available for students who are dealing with the immediate aftermath of a significant loss.
- Short-term individual counseling can help those who have recently dealt with a loss or are still struggling with a loss that happened long ago.
- Group counseling specifically for issues related to grief is available through the Memory Circle group.
Grief Support: College Grief Information
Facts (and a video presentation) pertaining to moving forward following a loss
Grief: Coping with Reminders After a Loss
Learn to recognize and dealing with reminders of a loss
Students Coping with Grief and Loss at School
Information for how to deal with a loss and meet your needs during college
Coping with Grief
A short video with advice on dealing with loss and change
- Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss
- On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss
by Kubler-Ross and Kessler
- Beyond Grief: A Guide to Recovering from the Death of a Loved One by Staudacher
- How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies by Rando
- How to Survive the Loss of a Love By Bloomfield, Colgrove, and McWilliams
- Healing After the Suicide of a Loved One by Smolin and Guinan
- A Journey through Grief by Viorst
- When Parents Die: A Guide for Adults by Myers
- The Gift of Grief: Healing the Pain of Everyday Losses by Tanner
- When there are no words: Finding your way to cope with loss and grief by Walton
- Understanding your grief: Ten essential touchstones for finding hope and healing your heart by Wolfe
- I wasn’t ready to say goodbye: Surviving, coping, and healing after the death of a loved one by Noel and Blair
- No time to say goodbye: Surviving the suicide of a loved one by Fine
- Recovering from the loss of a sibling Donnelly and Toomey
- When parents die by Myers