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Losing a loved one while in college is overwhelming and can trigger intense emotional, behavioral, and cognitive reactions. Although it may be hard to imagine it now, living with grief does get easier. We don’t necessarily “get over” the loss of someone close to us, but the intense pain and sadness that we feel right after a death does eventually subside.
The passage of time, support from others, and good self-care often help us heal and move into a place of acceptance and adjustment to life without our loved one. Remember that there’s no “right” way to grieve, and that it’s important to take time for yourself to do what’s needed to help in your healing.
Again, we all experience loss differently. Many common responses to loss are listed below; however, this is not an exhaustive list. Everyone reacts to loss differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to grieve.
Not everyone who loses a loved one seeks out counseling. It’s important to have a good support system in place and to use that support when needed. However, you may wish to talk to a professional if:
Remember that support often involves listening and being there—you can’t take away their pain or minimize it, and attempts to do so may feel in invalidating. Here are some tips:
Losing someone to suicide is particularly difficult because it is usually sudden and often unexpected. It’s important to know that people who take their lives by suicide were not weak or flawed; usually people consider suicide when their level of emotional pain and sense of hopelessness is unbearable. Often there are co-occurring life stressors, substance use, or mental health issues—most often depression.
In addition to the reactions listed above, additional reactions are common when we lose someone to suicide:
When a pet dies, it is common to experience the same reactions to loss that we have when a person dies. This is normal, yet we often think we shouldn’t react as strongly to losing an animal. But the reality is that our pets are part of our families and part of our daily routines. They are our friends who have been there through important times in our lives, and in some cases, our entire lives.
Losing a family or personal pet is particularly hard if we weren’t there to say good-bye or if we had to make the agonizing decision about euthanasia due to illness or injury. Talk to your vet about resources available for support.
Dean of Student Engagement