Coping with loss as a student

By Staff Writer
April 2, 2019

Marissa Roberto is an alumna of Cabrini University. Between the end of her junior year to the middle of her senior year of college, Roberto lost both of her grandfathers. Roberto reports that her days and weeks after were very emotional and very hard on her. She felt she was constantly reminded of their absence in her life.

“Both times I found out, I was at school surrounded by friends and broke down,” Roberto said. “Both deaths were unexpected; I never lost anyone so significant in my life before those moments.” 

Grieving in college students

Students attending college often report they have immense levels of stress throughout their student career. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for students to experience tragedies in the lives of their family and their friends. One in three college students will experience a death of a family member or close friend in the past year. This ultimately adds a new realm of stress to their lives, one which cannot be easily removed or repaired.

The five stages of grief are ways humanity is able to put into words and rationalize the grieving process. However, this is not a set formula.

The organization “Heal Grief” is a community that supports grieving individuals while providing connections and resources to help them move forward in their lives. According to, there is not a wrong way to grieve, but there are unhealthy means of coping. Their organization encourages healthy ways of coping and grieving among its users.

Actively Moving Forward (AMF) is an organization that assists grieving young adults to professionals and other grieving young adults. “These young adults support one another with peer-led grief support groups and are encouraged to participate in community service events in memory of their loved ones,” AMF said.

Susan Fitzgerald is the director of health services at Cabrini University. She encourages students to contact health services when students are experiencing coping with a loss.

“Coping with loss as a college student is a very important topic,” Fitzgerald said. “One which many college students are faced with.”

Marissa Roberto believes that our culture does not discuss death and ways to experience grief appropriately.

“We live in a ‘grief avoidant culture’ that can often rob individuals of their grief,” Roberto said. “Grief is unique to the individual.”

Potential reactions to grief

It is normal for the grieving to experience a range of reactions.

  • Physical sickness: Often times, individuals are more prone to experiencing illness after a tragedy. This could be due to a weakened immune system, lack of sleep and stress.
  • Depression: Sadness, isolation and hopelessness can oftentimes lead an individual to a depressed state of being. This can be due to the way they are internalizing the loss.
  •  Denial: Distancing from the tragedy as a means of protecting themselves emotionally is another potential reaction.
  • Releases: Emotional releases such as crying and screaming can play a role in the healing process.
  • Remorse: Feelings of what could have been or should have been can overwhelm the grieving individual to where they feel immense sadness resulting in guilt.
  • Anger: Strong emotions that often do not play a typical role in the individual’s life, such as anger, can come into play after experiencing grief that is life-shattering to the individual.

How to support the grieving college student

According to Cornell College, it is sometimes difficult for friends and family to help someone who is experiencing grief.

Graphic by staff writer Brooke Fertig

Marissa Roberto is now the communication coordinator at the nonprofit Peter’s Place, which is a center for grieving children and families. The center offers guidance to individuals who are grieving and offers peer support groups to children, young adults and their relatives.

“Grief has become a commonality in my day to day life,” Roberto said. “Losing those close to me was and will be tough times in my life, but working at our center, I am learning that loss and grief is ok.”

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