Mourning the loss of a loved one

Grief is the mental distress, sorrow or confusion that results from experiencing the loss of something important to you. In most cases, grief is triggered by the death of a family member or friend, but other losses (e.g. the death of a pet), the news that someone you know is sick, financial hardship and the end of a lifelong dream can also cause grief. Grief tends to be magnified when the loss is unexpected and close to home, such as the accidental death or suicide of a family member, classmate or roommate.

Many students will experience a period of grieving while at college. Parents today are waiting longer than ever to have children. This results in older parents and grandparents and an increased likelihood of a family death while a student is still in school.

Is My Grief Normal?

It’s common for someone who is experiencing grief to wonder if their feelings are normal and perhaps even be embarrassed or ashamed. Everyone grieves in a unique way, and it’s important not to judge others during such a time. Common grieving feelings and behaviors are quite similar to the symptoms of depression. They include:

  • Continually recounting the story that caused the grief
  • Denial
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Anger or frustration
  • Anxiety

Coping With Grief

If you’re experiencing grief, there are a few things that you can do to help yourself get through the experience in the healthiest way possible, such as:

  • Don’t shy away from your feelings. Continue grieving for as long as it takes for you to heal.
  • Talk about your feelings with your family and friends.
  • Ensure that you are eating enough and getting enough sleep.
  • Stay active, but don’t take on so much that you have no time for reflection.
  • Spend your free time doing pleasurable things like working on hobbies or writing in a journal. A great way to deal with grief is to work on a project that is related to memorializing your loss.
  • Don’t allow yourself to become reliant on alcohol or drugs as a means of relaxation or escape.

If someone you know is experiencing grief, be there for them. Listen to them and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Don’t shy away from them just because you feel awkward or uncomfortable talking about their loss. People who are experiencing grief often feel isolated and crave emotional support.

Grief and Grades

Grief can have a big impact on academic performance. Grief affects your ability to focus your thoughts, which can make coursework very difficult. Recent studies have shown that college students dealing with the loss of a loved one tend to suffer academically during the semester in which the loss occurs. Interestingly, though, this effect disappears in following semesters. However, this may be because the students most affected by grief drop out of college before beginning the next semester and their performance is not measured.

If you’re mourning the loss of a loved one in the middle of a semester at college, notify your professors of your situation. They almost certainly will be empathetic and try to accommodate you however they can. Make an effort to keep going to class. It may be hard, but it’s important that you not allow yourself to fall too far behind in your academics. You may not be able to attend every lecture or do all your reading, but try to keep up with important deadlines.

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