Helping a Student Cope with Loss
The death of a loved one is always hard. When the grieving person is in school — whether it's at an elementary school or college — grief can be more complicated, and extra support during the time of mourning is often needed.
College students who are away from home may feel isolated and detached from family members, and this can make grieving especially difficult. Those who haven't experienced a loss in their life may be overwhelmed and have trouble finding the "new normal" in everyday routines.
For younger students, returning to school after a loss can also be extremely challenging. They may feel different from their peers, which can create a sense of isolation. Often, children refrain from sharing their feelings, and adults may not even know they're still struggling. Elementary-aged children may retreat and become very quiet, while middle and high school students might try to put on a brave face and power through.
If you're a student, and particularly if you're going to school away from home, there are some things you can do to take care of yourself and facilitate healing.
- Look into free counseling services. Colleges and even high schools offer counseling services for students who have suffered a loss. Even if you don't think talking to someone will help, give it a try.
- Pace yourself. Don't race back to school before you're ready, and don't pile on the courses to distract yourself. Be honest with yourself about your needs and capabilities, and plan accordingly.
- Focus on a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and sleeping well. Taking care of your physical needs will help your mental and emotional state.
- Allow yourself to grieve. Grief is a uniquely personal emotion. Some people take longer than others to feel like themselves again, and that's OK. Be as gentle with yourself as you would be with someone you love who was grieving.
- Consider a support group. Talking to strangers may not appeal to you, but support groups can actually be very helpful. Sharing your story with others who have had similar experiences is a good way to find coping strategies and work through your grief.
If you're offering support to students, speak in plain terms about death. Don't use euphemisms, which can confuse and upset younger children especially. Give them room to talk about what they're experiencing. Help them find resources that will support them through this time and anticipate that they may have difficulties in school.
The first step in beginning to heal from a loss, no matter what your age, is to pause and find a way to honor the life of the person you are grieving. At Beth Israel Memorial Chapel, we are committed to helping families navigate grief, and we're experts at planning beautiful, life-honoring funerals. Call us at (561) 327-4965 for more information about all we have to offer.