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Understanding Grief and Loss

Loss is an inevitable part of life, and grief is a natural part of the healing process. The reasons for grief are many, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of health, or the letting go of a long-held dream. Dealing with a significant loss can be one of the most difficult times in a person's life. College students can experience many losses, from the death of a loved one to the loss of a significant relationship. Other losses can occur as students experience change.

Well of griefSymptoms of Grief and Loss

  • Denial, shock, numbness
  • Emotional release, such as crying
  • Reactive depression which includes loneliness, isolation, feeling hopeless
  • Panic, feeling overwhelmed, confused and fearful
  • Remorse and regret
  • Anger
  • Physical ailments such as headaches, colds, nausea, and hypertension often increase

Coping with Grief

Each one of us has our own way of coping with painful experiences. The list below may help you generate ideas about how to manage your feelings of grief.

  • Talk to family or friends
  • Seek counseling
  • Read poetry or books
  • Engage in social interactions
  • Exercise
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Seek spiritual support
  • Take time to relax
  • Join a support group
  • Listen to music
  • Be patient with yourself
  • Give yourself permission to grieve

Helping Others with Grief and Loss

Take some kind of action - a phone call, a card, a hug, attend the funeral - offer specific help. Be available - allow them to talk without being judgmental. Listen well - avoid telling them what to do or feel or using clichés such as "You have to move on," "it's really the best thing." Be patient - grievers have to talk to heal and many times, it is easy to be impatient. Encourage self-care. Link people to professional assistance if needed.

Counseling for grief & loss can help by:

  • Assisting you in understanding and working through your reactions to your loss.
  • Enhancing your ability to cope with having lost someone significant in your life.
  • Maximizing your resilience in the face of longer-term or complicated grief.

Off Campus Services

  • Compassionate Friends (self-help group for bereaved parents) 816.531.6464
  • Solace House (center for grieving children and their families) 913.341.0318
  • Kansas City Hospice 816.363.2600
  • Mental Health Helpline 913.281.1234

Handouts

  • Self-care after loss
  • About bereavement

Web Resources

centerforloss.com: The site features a thorough collection of articles and book excerpts focused on grief.

childrensroom.org:  The Children’s Room creates safe, supportive communities so that no child, teen or family has to grieve alone.

coping-with-loss-and-grief.com: This is the website of Dr. Ursula Weide (DC/VA area psychologist), who, moved by the traumatic grief she experienced following the sudden death of her husband, has developed a specialization in complicated grief, bereavement, and trauma therapy. It includes comprehensive resources, including free videos and articles and a telephone support network.

griefbeyondbelief.org: This website facilitates peer-to-peer grief support for atheists, Humanists, and other Freethinkers by providing spaces free of religion, spiritualism, mysticism, and evangelism in which to share sorrow and offer the comfort of rational compassion.

goodgriefcenter.com: This is a comprehensive bereavement resource that promotes grief education, awareness. Referrals to support groups are also provided.

grief.net: The site of the Grief Recovery Institute, the action program for moving beyond loss. This site is especially helpful for assisting others who are coping with loss.

griefnet.org: An Internet community comprised of people coping with grief, death, and major loss. It offers on-line support groups.

griefshare.org: A site that helps you to find local support groups and provides some online support in the form of videos.

healingthespirit.org: A site that centers on families of organ and tissue donors, but that also is a general grief and loss resource.

holdthedoor.com: A site originated by individuals who lost family members suddenly, it provides a comprehensive workbook on living with and growing from experiences of loss and adversity.

http://www.learnpsychology.org/now/grief/: A guidebook for grief awareness and understanding.

motherlessdaughtersxo.blogspot.com: This site provides resources for women who have lost a mother through death.

opentohope.com: The Open to Hope Foundation is an online resource center for individuals who have experienced loss.

recover-from-grief.com: A comprehensive site that includes grief coping strategies for a wide variety of losses.

studentsofamf.org: The Students of Ailing Mothers and Fathers is an organization dedicated to supporting college students dealing with illness and death.

Reading List

Caplan, S. and Lang, G. (1995). Grief's courageous journey: A workbook. 
Churn, A. (2003). The end is just the beginning: Lessons in grieving for African-Americans. 
Didion, J. (2005). The year of magical thinking. 
Edelman, H. (1995). Motherless daughters: The legacy of loss. 
Fine, C. (1999). No time to say goodbye: Surviving the suicide of a loved one. 
Gilbert, A. & Baker, C.K. (2006). Always too soon: Voices of support for those who have lost both parents. 
Golden, T. (2000). Swallowed by a snake: The gift of the masculine side of healing. 
Greene, P. (2003). It must have been moonglow: Reflections on the first years of widowhood. 
Hambrook, D. & Eisenberg, E. (1997). A mother loss workbook: Healing exercises for daughters. 
Harris, M. (1995). The loss that is forever: The lifelong impact of the early death of a mother or father. 
Hooks, B. (1993). Sisters of the yam: Black women and self-recovery. 
James, J., & Cherry, F. (1998). The grief recovery handbook: The action program for moving beyond death, divorce, and other losses. 
Johnson, C. J., & McGee, M. G. (Eds.). (1991). How different religions view death and afterlife. 
Kubler-Ross, E. & Kessler, D. (2007). On grief and grieving: finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss. 
Kushner, H.S. (1981). When bad things happen to good people. 
Lewis, C. S. (2001). A grief observed. (memoir) 
Oates, J.C. (2011). A widow's story: A memoir. 
Rupp, J. (1988). Praying our goodbyes: Understanding the spirituality of change in our lives. 
Smolin, A. & J. Guinan (1993). Healing after the suicide of a loved one. 
Staudacher, C. (1992). Men & grief. 
Stepanchuk, C., & Wong, C. (1991). Mooncakes and hungry ghosts: Festivals of China. 
Viorst, J. (1986). Necessary losses: The loves, illusions, dependencies, and impossible expectations that all of us have to give up in order to grow.

Films

Dearly Loved: Dealing with the Death of a Parent (13 minutes): In this documentary, three young adults of different cultural discuss the death of a parent. Each person is at a different part of the grieving process. Available from fanlight.com.

A Family Disrupted: Dealing with the Death of a Sibling (22 minutes): Three individuals share their experiences of how they and their loved ones have grieved and mourned. They particularly emphasize dealing with friends and family members whose grieving and mourning differ from their own. Available from fanlight.com.

Grief in America (57 minutes): Seven people from diverse cultural backgrounds discuss their grief and mourning process, integrating ethnic customs for coping with their losses. As well, experts on grieving and mourning discuss coping strategies. Available from fanlight.com.

Phantom Limb (28 minutes): Concerns the death of the filmmaker's seven-year-old brother decades ago. The film is loosely structured according to stages of grief and emphasizes a philosophical view of death.

Available on jayrosenblattfilms.com.

Uncoupled: Dealing with the Death of a Spouse (24 minutes) Four grieving spouses explore helpful and unhelpful coping mechanisms following their loss. Available from fanlight.com/.

 

Adapted from towson.edu/counseling
Graphic from pixabay.com

Last Modified: 10/7/16