No one is ever well-equipped to deal with grief. When you are starting a new chapter as a college student, it can be an even more difficult time. Everyone grieves in different ways but no matter how you process your loss, it is important that you navigate those feelings. After dealing with multiple instances of grief in my college years, here are a few steps that have helped my understand how to deal with grief:
Now there are certain details you may want to keep to yourself and that is perfectly understandable. However, it is important to confide in a trusted person about the situation you’re dealing with. Maybe the instance is unique to you, but grief is a universal emotion. We all want to know the answer of how to deal with grief, but the first step is letting those closest to you know about this change in your life. This person can be a friend, a loved one, or even a certified professional if you feel that talking to your family is just too much pressure. Receiving comfort or even just having someone listen as the tears flow will allow you to make some sort of sense of this grief.
2. An Extended Support System
Sometimes as a college student you may feel like you can only talk to your professors about deadlines and assignments. We want to create this image like we have everything together and we are the one college kid who doesn’t need assistance in any other area of our lives. You’ll be surprised to know that professors were once in your shoes and have had to navigate unexpected life situations.
When you are trying to figure out how to deal with grief, it can become incredibly overwhelming. I broke down during a math test my second year of college because I was grieving, and my professor had no idea what was going on. Consider opening up to your professors about your situation. They will be more understanding because they’ve most likely gone through stages of grief and they may even provide insight into how they dealt with the situation. Whether you want to open up this personal level of communication is completely up to you but just know that you don’t have to suffer in silence just to complete an assignment.
3. Take Time To Step Back
There will be days when you feel like you can’t move forward. Whether you are dealing with the loss of a family member, loved one, or pet attending class during this time can seem like an impossible task. On those days when you feel incredibly overwhelmed, consider taking a mental health day.
Your mind can be moving at an unbelievable rate trying to figure out why this happened and trying to focus on any subject would make things even harder. Sometimes you just need a day to feel everything or even just to sleep and let your mind take a break. You will be figuring out how to deal with all these thoughts and emotions that only grief seems to stir up.
4. Your Time In School May Be Extended
Dealing with grief is not something that can be accomplished overnight. There is not one set time table so if it seems like it’s taking a lifetime to get through it, this may change your college circumstances. Due to missed days for a variety of reasons, you may have to spend extra semesters in college to reach your degree and this is not a bad thing! You are dealing with a difficult situation and it is going to take however long it takes to get back on track. The important thing is that you keep striving for this goal that you set before grief entered your life no matter how long it takes.
5. Let Those Memories Flow
Some of us choose to deal with grief by blocking the memories out of our head. For me, I found it more helpful to let them out. Whether it was looking at old pictures together or writing about fond memories together, it reminded me of the importance these people held/continue to hold in my life. It is an incredibly emotional process, but I was able to reach a point where even though seeing these images brought a certain amount of pain, that was outweighed by the joy I remembered.
6. Remember That It Gets Better
Whether it takes you a few months or a lifetime, you will discover how to deal with grief on your own terms and be able to function in life. Dealing with death as an adult is a difficult and confusing phenomenon, but it happens to all of us. There will times when things seem bleak but there will also be times where you will be able to laugh at times you’ve shared. In the moment, I felt like the grieving process was never going to end. Although time may not completely heal the wounds, it will allow you to continue to live your life with a few extra supporters from the other side.
You don’t have to go through this process alone, reach out to someone you trust. What are your tips on how to deal with grief in college? Tell us in the comments.
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Rebecca was born in Hayward, CA and still resides there today. She received her BA in English Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and is the first in her family to graduate from university. She is a Poetry student in the MFA program at Saint Mary’s College of California and is furthering her involvement in the literary community. In her spare time, she likes to lose her voice at Giants games, read Young Adult novels, make lists, and aims to cross become a writer off it.