Students in Grief: What can you do?

By Lisa Greig, Student Support and Outreach Coordinator

It has been a difficult nine months for many as we have all been braving the waves of grief, collectively, in this pandemic.

Understanding grief

Jack Jordan provides a great definition of grief: it is “the whole person response to the actual or threatened loss of anything which we are psychologically attached”. This is important because grief is not just tied to a death loss, it is a response to any loss. And, where loss lives, grief will follow (Carrington, 2020).

A few things to note about grief:

  • It is Normal
  • There is no timeline
  • Grief is the universal response to loss
  • It does not occur in stages, but rather think of it like waves

Creating space to normalize grief is an act of compassion.

Dan Siegel says you have to ‘name it to tame it’, and I have found this activity to be very helpful with students. Simply starting off workshops asking them how they are doing and inviting them to name their ‘COVID Losses’ in the chat box creates a community of normalizing the struggles.

The thing is, hard is hard and grief is not the playground for comparative suffering. A loss of a wedding, the loss of convenience, the loss of sports teams, the loss of not being able to visit family, the loss of being able to study in Canada; these are all losses and remember, with these losses, grief will follow.

So, what can you do?

First, check in. Ask students how they are. When possible, give space for students to build community in their newly established virtual classroom. Megan Devine shares three strategies to supporting a griever; show up, listen, don’t fix. All three we can do and all three create a sense of validation and acknowledgement for our students.

Resources, on and off campus

On campus, there are a variety of resources that range from connecting students with Student Affairs and Outreach for an Intake (from here a student has access to ongoing counselling), attending the Grief 101 Support Group for Students, or viewing the Supporting Student Grief Webinar I presented in the Fall, linked here.

Other resources that have been helpful for students include:

If you have any further questions, comments or want to continue this discussion on how to support a student in grief, please contact me.

 

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