Grief and Loss

What is Grief?

Grief is a natural response to various types of loss you may encounter. Approximately 1 in 4 college students reported having lost a family member or a close friend in the past year. In addition, college and graduate school years are likely to bring many transitional losses. You may move away from your family for the first time, go through significant relationship break-ups, receive your first D on the exam, and/or start exploring your identity, such as spirituality, gender, and sexual orientations. 

How Grief May Feel

Though everyone experiences grief differently, many people notice these changes:

These responses typically become less intense over time, but they can spike up around anniversaries of loss, memorable places, or rough times in your life. Importantly, sometimes you may not notice as much changes in response to a loss as you had expected. It could be because you have too much practical business to take care of or because you have good support and qualities that make you resilient in stressful situations. Again, the key is to honor individual differences in dealing with grief.

How Can I Cope with Grief?

Observe: Take a moment and observe what you are experiencing internally and externally. What is on your mind? How are you feeling right now? Are you acting differently from your typical self lately? How so? Put any judgments of how you are responding in the back of your mind and simply note what you notice about yourself and your situations. Ask yourself what you need. Do you need kind ears? Gentle hugs? Solitude? A sense of closure? Practical guidance to manage the aftermath? You might as well be feeling so overwhelmed that you just need someone or a few deep breaths to help you feel grounded. Give yourself a permission to take one thing at a time, because it is natural for your needs to change from moment to moment.  

Take Care: Never undermine the power of basics. Pay closer attention to your sleep, appetite, and activity levels in times of distress. It is likely that you struggle with some of these areas during grief. Do what you can in the given moment. See our Self Care page for various self-care tips.

Connect: Having someone who understands your grief can be challenging, particularly in college. Many young adults have had limited exposure to significant loss. Therefore, your generally supportive peers may not get what you are going through right away. Try to connect with those with similar experience through online resources, local support groups, or memoirs.

Reach Out: Loss often affects multiple aspects of your life, including psychological and physical health, social connection, academic performance, finances, housing situations, etc. Reach out and get yourself a support team. You may be able to figure things out on your own but having experts’ support helps you get there more efficiently. If not sure where to start, PACS can assist you find UNH offices and off campus resources for your specific needs.

How Can I Support People in Grief?

Many of us face the dilemma of wanting to support our grieving family and friends yet not knowing how. We fear saying wrong things, opening up something more than we are ready to handle, or triggering our own grief experiences that have not been fully addressed. In the meantime, we also know how much the simple presence of our friends alleviated the pain when we went through difficult times. Here are stories written by those who lost their loved ones, offering guidance for supporting people in grief.

-Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook

-Taylor Feuss, USA Today

Visit our Quick Reference Links page for books and websites about grief and loss.