Grief and Death

As a college student, it’s natural to fear death, or perhaps think that you’ll live forever. But death is a natural part of life — which is why it’s important to learn how to deal with death, dying and grief.

On this page:

Understanding the Grieving Process

When a loved one, friend or classmate dies (or is dying), you will go through a grieving process. Losing someone close to you is very difficult emotionally, and it takes time to recover from the loss. But by understanding the process, you can recognize your feelings, and start to understand loss (and grief) as a natural part of life. The grieving experience will also show you that you are strong enough to cope with tragedy, and can handle other stressful events that you may face in the future.

The grieving process usually consists of the following stages. Of course, each person is different, so you may not go through all of these stages:

Stages of Grief

Denial and Shock

At first, it may be difficult for you to accept death, and you may start to deny the reality of death. But you can typically get through this stage by expressing and sharing your feelings about death and dying.

Anger

During this stage, you’ll probably ask, “Why me?” It’s normal to be angry at the unfairness of death — and you may project your anger unto others. Having social support and people to talk with can help you work through your anger.

Bargaining

You may try to “bargain” with whatever deity you believe in — perhaps even offering to give up part of your life in exchange for the life of the person who is sick, or who has passed away.

Guilt


It’s common to feel guilty for things you did or did not do prior to the loss. But it’s important to forgive yourself. Accept that you are human, and that you don’t always know the impact of your decisions.

Depression

You may at first experience a sense of great loss. Your moods may change often, you may feel isolated, and you may even withdraw from others. It takes time for someone who is grieving to get back to who they were before. Encouraging and reassuring someone who is in this stage will not typically be helpful.

Loneliness

As you go through changes in your social life because of the loss, you may feel lonely and afraid. You can help lessen these feelings by reaching out to people you trust, and even making new friends.

Acceptance

Accepting a loss does not mean that you are happy about the situation. It simply means that you are ready to accept and deal with the new reality in your life.

Hope


Eventually, you will reach a point where remembering the person you lost will be less painful. You can begin to look ahead to the future, and the good times that are ahead.

Advice for Coping with Grief

The grieving process is not easy. It takes time, and some days will be better than others. Here are some ways you can get through each day:

  • Discuss feelings such as loneliness, anger and sadness openly and honestly with other students, instructors and family members
  • Maintain hope, when it’s appropriate
  • If your religious convictions are important to you, talk to a member of the clergy about your beliefs and feelings
  • Join a support group
  • Take good care of yourself by eating well-balanced meals, getting plenty of sleep, and engaging in positive behaviors
  • Be patient with yourself; it takes time to heal

Ways to Help a Bereaved Student

You can play a critical role in helping someone who is going through the grieving process.

  • Be supportive; sometimes just by being there for a student, you can help
  • Understand the stages of grief and how a student might feel in each stage; for example, do not attempt to encourage a student who is in the depressed stage of grieving, since this will not be helpful
  • Talk openly and honestly about the situation unless the student does not want to.
  • Use an appropriate, caring conversational tone of voice
  • Show that you care by listening attentively, and showing interest in what the grieving student has to say
  • Share your feelings and talk about any similar experience you may have had, but avoid using the phrase “I know just how you feel” since each situation is unique
  • If the symptoms of depression are very severe or persistent, and the grieving student is not coping with day-to-day activities, please encourage that student to get professional help through Counseling Services

Get Help

Someone to talk to for mental health issues

Counseling Services

Student Life

University at Buffalo
120 Richmond Quadrangle, North Campus
Buffalo, NY 14261

Phone: (716) 645-2720; Fax: (716) 645-2175

University at Buffalo
202 Michael Hall, South Campus
Buffalo, NY 14214

Phone: (716) 829-5800

Preventative health and wellness education

University at Buffalo
114 Student Union, North Campus
Buffalo, NY 14260

Phone: (716) 645-2837; Fax: (716) 645-6234

Additional Resources

Disclaimer

This information is designed to provide self-help resources for mental health. This website is not psychotherapy treatment. If you have questions, need help or just want someone to talk with, please contact Counseling Services.