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"How Members of the UVA Community Can Care for Themselves and Each Other in Experiences of Grief and Loss"

As a community, we are all deeply saddened by the many losses we have experienced this last year. As is common in moving through the process of grief or making sense of such losses, each of you may be experiencing a wide array of feelings including but not limited to numbness, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, disbelief, and confusion. For those of you who knew the students, these feelings are likely to be much more intense. It is important that in times like this, we do our best to cope collectively and as individuals. Below you will find information that may be helpful for yourself or to share with those around you during this time.

Grief is a normal and natural response to the loss of someone or something important to you. Everyone grieves in their own way depending on personal experiences, cultural background, religion, and many other factors. We encourage you to be gentle with yourselves and others and allow room for many different types of feelings as you move through this process. Because this is a non-linear process, you might need different types of support at different times. Remember that what is helpful to each of us is often unique to each of us.

Here are some tips on coping:

  • Know that the best way to maintain stability is to seek support from your community (friends, family, mentors, RAs, university staff and faculty). The most effective means of coping with grief and loss is to talk about it with someone who cares. So, talk together. Be together. Share together. The support you need during this time lies in your relationships.
  • Maintaining your routine. Get to class even if you struggle to focus. It is important to maintain normalcy when things feel abnormal.
  • Getting exercise. Even short walks help us to process stress.
  • Taking breaks from thinking about your worries. While it is important to talk with one another about how you are feeling, it is equally important that you take breaks from thinking about your worries. Find a mindless activity that can help distract you temporarily such as watching a movie, taking a walk, or spending time with a friend.
  • Tending to your inner life. If you are religious, then pray. If you practice mindfulness, then meditate. If you find comfort in the environment, spend time outside with friends.
  • Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal, write a letter saying the things you never got to say; make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life; visit a memorial; or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to him or her.

You may also consider talking with a counselor at CAPS – particularly if you are not feeling safe or if you are struggling to get to class — or referring someone to CAPS that you think would benefit from getting some support. The best way to access CAPS at a time like this is to just walk in anytime between 8am and 5pm Monday through Friday. CAPS is located in Student Health at the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and Brandon Avenue.

If you would rather talk by phone with a CAPS counselor, you can do that by calling 243-5150. Our receptionist will provide you with options for scheduled appointments. Lastly, if you are in need of assistance after hours, you can call our evening/weekend on-call clinician at 972-7004.

Resources

Office of the Dean of Students - Professional staff is available to assist you in navigating many academic or personal concerns and can help connect you to on-grounds resources. You can stop in at their main office located on the second floor in Peabody Hall or call 434-924-7133 to schedule an appointment.

Hospice of the Piedmont - Provides bereavement services including individual counseling and support groups: http://www.hopva.org/grieving-a-loss/

Helpful Websites

Helping a Student who has Lost a Friend or Family Member to Suicide:
http://www.cmhc.utexas.edu/bethatone/studentscopingsuicide.html

Suicide Grief: Healing After a Loved One’s Suicide:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/suicide/art-20044900

National Students of Ailing Mothers and Fathers Support Network: Non-profit organization supporting grieving college students:
http://www.studentsofamf.org/

Heal Grief.org – Resources for coping with the loss of a friend:
http://healgrief.org/death-of-a-friend-2/

Mourner’s Bill of Rights:
http://healgrief.org/the-mourners-bill-of-rights-by-alan-d-wolfelt-ph-d/

Association for Death Education and Counseling – Resources:
http://www.adec.org/adec/Main/Help_for_the_Grieving/ADEC_Main/Find-Help/CopingWithLossNew/Coping_With_Loss.aspx?hkey=fec0088c-a603-4f9d-a90f-37c4443c122e

Books about Grief and Loss

Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate & Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss by Sameet M. Kumar
How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies by Terese Rando
Remembering with Love: Messages of Hope for the First Year of Grieving and Beyond by Elizabeth Levang
When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner
How to Survive the Loss of a Loved One by Peter McWilliams, Harold Bloomfield, and Melba Colgrove

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