Grief and Loss

Grief is a natural, albeit painful, response to loss. Commonly, grief is associated with the death of a loved one. Studies indicate that over 80% of college students have experienced a significant death in their lifetime. In other words, if you have lost a loved one, you are not alone.

Despite this common association, the grief response is not limited to death. Grief can be experienced following other significant losses, including the end of a relationship, moving to a new community (leaving an old one behind), or missing out on an anticipated opportunity or goal. It is normal for us to engage the process of grieving in response to a numerous variety of life situations.

You may have heard that grief occurs in stages. While this may be true for some, grief is typically more messy than that. In fact, thinking about grief as a roller coaster may be more useful, full of unexpected twists and turns that we must go through in our own way and in our own time.

  • You may experience shock or denial, you may not.
  • You may become very angry or resentful, you may not.
  • You may become sad and tearful, you may not.
  • Grief may linger a long time, or it can hit you in waves.

No grief process is exactly the same.

It is important to focus on going through the grief process, rather than trying to simply get over it. Research in the field of grief and loss indicates that acknowledging and working through the pain of the loss are essential tasks for healing. Furthermore, research suggests that the process of adjustment requires remaining connected to what has been lost. Healing is not about forgetting; it is about discovering a new sense of and in the midst of a loss.

  • Talking to a trusted other.
  • Telling the story of your loss.
  • Finding creative ways to let our your emotions (i.e. journal, physical activity, art, etc.).
  • Allowing yourself to enjoy pleasurable activities.
  • Connecting with some of the support resources listed below.
  • Doing something to help someone else.

If someone you care about has experienced a recent loss, they may be going through the grieving process. It is important to remember that everyone is going to express their grief in different ways. For instance, some people may be quite expressive with their emotions, while others may not be. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

One of the most important things you can do is acknowledge that something important has happened and offer them space if they want it.  This can look like asking them to talk about the loss and to be open to whatever they want to share with you. It could also may be offering to sit with them while they cry or scream. Remember, be patient with the person who is grieving; it may take them weeks, months or even years to fully grieve a significant loss.

A small percentage of persons may experience what experts refer to as “complicated grief.” These persons seem to be in a perpetuate state of despair, where they appear to lose meaning in their life. They may consistently withdraw from relationships, become overly preoccupied with what has been lost, and become chronically disconnected from previously held belief systems.  It is as if their whole world becomes permanently shattered.

If you believe you or someone you love may be experiencing complicated grief, it is important to connect with professionals who can help, such as a mental health professional or religious leader.

Online Resources


An app specifically designed to support individuals who have lost a loved one, as well as their family and friends. The app contains two main components. First, through a series of questions, the person is able to see how well they are managing their grief. With this information, specific support, guidance, and strategies are offered to enable the person to process their grief more effectively. The second component is designed to help people who are supporting the bereaved individual.


For those who are grieving, the stress they experience can negatively impact various areas of their lives. “Calm” is a highly-rated app designed to reduce stress, increase relaxation, and to improve the quality of sleep. Relying on a mindfulness-based approach, “Calm” offers numerous guides and lectures that can help an individual find stability and peace in the midst of their grieving process.


“When someone you love dies, there is no such thing as moving on”

Comedian and actress Kelley Lynn provides an intimate talk about how persons should never be expected or encouraged to “move on” from the death of a loved one. Her talk includes specific strategies for helping friends who are grieving, as well as encouragement for those who are trying to move through loss, not move on from it.

“The adventure of grief”

Dr. Geoff Warburton is a psychologist and writer with an expertise in loss. He describes the grieving process as an adventure to be embraced and engaged, and he asserts that the emotions associated with loss must be felt. By utilizing this therapeutic perspective, he asserts that grief can become the fuel needed to thrive.

“The grieving process: Coping with death”

This brief, animated video provides an introduction to the grieving process, and it includes specific tips to help you move forward in healthy ways.

On-Campus Resources

Student Counseling & Psychological Services (SCPS)

SCPS provides brief, time-limited, and goal-oriented counseling and psychiatric services to the Auburn University student community. All services are free and confidential. Specific grief-related services include:

1.Grief Support Group: weekly gathering of 5-10 students aimed at providing emotional support for those who have lost a loved one.

2.Individual Counseling: 1-10 biweekly sessions which are supportive and solution-focused.

Office of Accessibility

Auburn University knows that the grief process can negatively impact a student’s ability to function academically. If you believe that you would benefit from academic accommodations or need to temporarily step away from your studies, contact the Office of Accessibility to speak with an accommodation specialist.

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Last modified: 03/23/2020