Spaeth: Coping with grief as a college student

The deaths of multiple University of Oregon students and a professor have brought grief upon the university community and beyond. Coping as a college student poses unique challenges, as the college environment is not the most conducive to grieving. After a tragic event like this occurs, students are forced back …

The deaths of multiple University of Oregon students and a professor have brought grief upon the university community and beyond. Coping as a college student poses unique challenges, as the college environment is not the most conducive to grieving. After a tragic event like this occurs, students are forced back into their stressful lives and not allotted the necessary time to grieve. Despite this challenge, there are resources specifically designed to help with the grieving process that are available to UO students.

Unfortunately, when a college student loses someone, the world does not halt for us: we are forced to move on, often before we are ready. Grief is difficult to escape and there are no easy answers when it comes to coping with a death. The emotions are overwhelming and it brings on pain unlike anything you may have felt before. In our hearts, we understand that death is a natural part of life, but that knowledge makes it no easier to cope with a death.

Everyone copes differently. Coping with the loss of a friend or family member is incredibly challenging, and for some, it might be one of the greatest challenges they have faced. After a loss, some want to do something to dull the pain and fill that void. This can cause one to develop harmful habits, such as doing drug or abusing alcohol, oversleeping, developing a sex addiction or even engaging in excessive exercise. Moving on is going to hurt, but developing unhealthy methods of coping won’t help in the long run and will likely result in more suffering.

Taking time to grieve and finding an outlet for negative emotions can help. Grief is a process that affects people to different degrees — meaning there is no universal solution. You need to accept that time is needed and allow yourself to grieve properly. It’s okay to not be okay. As Julia Samuel said in “Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death, and Surviving,” a self-help novel that details solutions for dealing with grief, “You never ‘get over it,’ you ‘get on with it,’ and you never ‘move on,’ but you ‘move forward.’”

Therapists and psychologists are trained to help people handle the emotions brought on by the death of a loved one. They can provide strategies to cope with and manage a loss. The University of Oregon provides counseling through the UO Health Center, along with an after hour support and crisis line (541-346-3227). There are also resources in the Eugene community not affiliated with the university, such as private counselors specialized in grief counseling. Talking to someone and learning how to process the emotions you are feeling is a healthy way to handle a loss. Research has been done on how to help college students cope with a loss and educate people on these unique circumstances. There is also an organization called the Students of AMF (Actively Moving Forward), which works toward connecting grieving college students.

Additional University of Oregon groups include:

  • University Mental Health Support Line
  • SAFE Hotline (541) 346-7233
  • Support (Group Counseling) Living With Loss

The healing process for individuals coping with loss is intense and heartbreaking. When someone close to you passes, grieving is a life-changing experience. Know your resources and allow yourself to deal with the overwhelming emotions that come along with a death. While you may never truly move on, you can move forward.


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