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Grief at university

University brings many opportunities and joys, but it can also be a rollercoaster with confusing and difficult lows. It can be especially lonely or overwhelming if we’ve lost someone close to us – either earlier in our life or right in the middle of our studies.

Here are some things that might make the experience of grief at uni different to elsewhere:

Moving away from home

Feeling far away from your usual support network and not yet confident in your new environment can be tough. Moving out also comes with a number of responsibilities, such as cooking, cleaning and organising your own schedule – these everyday things can be overwhelming after a loss. Some people feel guilty about being away from home, whereas others may see university as a welcome distraction and opportunity for a fresh start, to figure out who you are and what you want from life.

If the loss occurred while at university

If it happened during your degree, or if it was someone you met at university, the environment can start to feel overwhelming or sombre, like a constant reminder of painful and confusing memories. The experience may well shift the dynamics of your social group and your whole perspective of university life – you may feel unsure how to continue now that everything has changed. Many students find they develop stronger friendships because of the experience and with time are able to rediscover the fun in university life, but there are often tough moments along the way.

Student lifestyle

After a loss, you may find it difficult to live up to social expectation as you will likely have less energy or not be in the mood. You might feel disconnected from your peers and disinterested in the ‘usual’ activities, which can be lonely and frustrating. It can feel like you’re the only one going through it with no one to talk to, but in reality lots of people are moving through similar experiences. It can be easy to fall into certain habits like using drugs or alcohol to numb your feelings, because this is normalised among some students. On the other hand, a busy social life could be a welcome distraction and reminder that life can be good.

Academic pressures

Some students may throw themselves into their studies as something to focus on, but for others studying may suddenly seem trivial. It can be hard to motivate yourself, and hard to focus. Try not to be hard on yourself if you’re productivity or your grades have dropped. Don’t be afraid to speak to your tutors about it and look into mitigating circumstances and deadline extensions. Some students defer a year, or have some time out. Unfortunately the paperwork often feels frustrating and impersonal and some students feel like they’re not supported in the way they would like to be. This is something we are working to change.