Coping with Grief as a College Student

Allison Niemiec poses for a photo on the Bunce Green.

This article is part of a running series with Rowan University’s Wellness Center. This collaboration aims to educate students about personal well-being options. For further updates, follow @RowanUWellness on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Allison Niemiec poses in a gazebo on campus.Meet Allison Niemiec, a first year graduate student in the Higher Education Administrative Track program, from Cedar Grove, NJ (Essex County). She shares, “I wanted to write about coping with grief in response to a lot of the current events that surround mental health in higher education. There was a lot of conversation about these topics in my graduate classes, and I was able to see the impact that these events have on college students.” 

Death is a sensitive topic and unexpected event that can cause an individual to experience a variety of different emotions and reactions. The emotions or reactions an individual has in response to loss is often referred to as grief (Thai and Moore, 2018). In college, students already deal with multiple stresses such as with academics, finances, friendships, adjusting to campus, and many more, which can be amplified when dealing with loss and grief. 

A Residential Assistant named Meghan Auer (2019) explains her experience of coping with grief after receiving the shocking news of the death of a dormitory resident that she used to work with. Meghan provides some insight as to what potential steps are toward coping with grief as a college student and student leader. For one, Meghan discusses the importance of processing and taking time to breathe immediately after hearing the news about death (Auer, 2019). She suggests that at this moment an individual will be faced with a variety of emotions at once such as frustration, denial, or feeling overwhelmed. Taking deep breaths helps to clear your mind from feeling these emotions as intensely and calling a close friend can provide positive support (Auer, 2019).

Second, it will be important to let employers or professors know about your loss so that they are aware of the situation and can provide accommodations (Auer, 2019). For example, informing a professor about your loss may be important in the event that you need to travel for services or need an extension on an assignment.

Third, the most important part of the healing process is engaging in self-care. Self-care can appear in a variety of different ways, but can include activities such as creating a routine that provides structure to your day, surrounding yourself with positive people, participating in hobbies that bring forth joy, exercising, and many more (Auer, 2019). In some cases, wellness resources such as group or individual counseling can also help an individual have another environment to talk about their experience with loss and learn more tips on how to cope with grief (Auer, 2019).

Overall, dealing with loss can cause a range of different emotions and reactions in an individual and is most commonly referred to as grief. As a college student the feeling of grief can seem overwhelming especially when dealing with other stressors such as finances, relationships, academics, and getting used to the college environment. Giving yourself time to process the news of the death, informing professors and employers about your loss, and participating in self-care are all beneficial steps towards coping with grief as a college student. 

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Story by:
Allison Niemiec, first year graduate student in the Higher Education Administrative Track program, Wellness Center intern

Photography by:
Alyssa Bauer, senior public relations major


Auer, M. (2019, November 8). Coping with Grief and Loss as a College Student. Retrieved from

Thai, C. L., & Moore, J. F. (2018). Grief and bereavement in young adult college students: A review of the literature and implications for practice and research. Communication Research Trends, 37(4), 4-29. Retrieved from