Studying at uni can be exciting and challenging, and the last thing on your mind might be losing someone. But it can happen. The loss of a family member, friend, or even a pet can significantly impact your life and your ability to get by day-to-day, let alone deal with uni.
While you are grieving your study can be affected. You might find it hard to concentrate, be forgetful, or struggle with motivation. It’s best to actively seek help at an early stage. Please feel free to make an appointment with a university counsellor who can help you:
- understand the grieving process and develop strategies to help manage your grief and study
- apply for extensions for your assignments
- apply for secondary assessment, for example deferment of examination or final assessment
- apply for an amendment to enrolment and fees in special circumstances
- take leave of absence
You might also wish to discuss the impact of grief on your study with your lecturers or tutors.
Coping with grief
The following suggestions may be helpful during this difficult time. Remember not to suffer alone. It is best to seek help early.
- Turn to friends and family members: Now is the time to let others help you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. People want to help, but often don’t know how. Tell them what you need; whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or help with funeral arrangements.
- Draw comfort from your faith: If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort its mourning rituals can provide. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to you can offer solace. If you start to question your faith due to the loss, which can be normal, you may want to talk to member in your religious community.
- Join a support group: Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. To find a bereavement support group in your area, contact local hospitals, hospices, funeral homes and counselling organisations.
- Talk to a therapist or grief counsellor: If your grief feels too much, call a mental health professional with experience in grief counselling. An experienced therapist can help you work through intense emotions and your grief. A University counsellor can help point you in the right direction.
- Face your feelings: In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid your feelings can prolong the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and health problems.
- Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way: Keep a journal or write a letter saying the things you never got to say. Make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life; or get involved in a cause or organisation that was important to him or her.
- Look after your physical health: The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you often feel better emotionally. Try to get enough sleep, eat right and exercise. Avoid using alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.
- Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel and don’t tell yourself how to feel either: Your grief is your own and no one else can tell you how you should feel. It’s okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy and to let go when you’re ready.
- Plan ahead for grief triggers: Anniversaries, holidays and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. This is completely normal. If you’re sharing a holiday or lifecycle event with other relatives, talk to them ahead of time about their expectations and agree on strategies to honour the person you loved.