​According to Dr. David Balk, Ph.D, author of “Helping the Bereaved College Student,” at any time at least 22 to 30 percent of college students are in the first year of grieving the death of a family member. Developmentally, most college students do not have all the coping mechanisms to manage the loss. For some, it could be their first experience with death.

Bereaved college students often feel a sense of isolation. “Hi, my mom died” is not a great conversation starter at a party.  Furthermore, there can be a toll on concentration and academic performance.

Some find support amongst peers, but many peers lack the skills needed to provide that support.  In fact, sharing a death-related loss could result in avoidance rather than support.

While many colleges have guidance centers that offer support, few have bereavement programs. There is a movement lobbying towards more grief sensitivity on college campuses. Currently it is negligible, at best. Find someone on campus to advocate for your college student.

Bereaved college students need:

  • The campus to be a safe place of support
  • The campus to provide information on grief and loss. Knowing that normal grief entails intense emotional reactions that occur intermittently over time, helps students know that they are not simply going crazy
  • To know how to respond to people who ignore their grief or who tell them that they need to get on with it – that it’s not good for them to continue to grieve
  • Teachers to allow late work, make-up exams, or  taking an incomplete
  • To know that they are not alone.