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Office of Wellness Education

Coping with Loss

Experiencing a sudden loss while away at college can be very difficult. Please know that there are lots of people and resources waiting to support you. At the same time, we want to acknowledge that even with lots of people surrounding you or reaching out, you may feel alone.

What are common reactions?


Physical Reactions

  • Fatigue
  • Tearfulness, frequent crying
  • Changes in sleep or appetite
  • Shakiness
  • Stomachaches
  • Headaches or dizziness
  • Physical tension
  • Helplessness or meaninglessness

Cognitive Reactions

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty with assignments
  • Guilt
  • Isolating from others
  • Not wanting to be alone

Emotional/ Behavioral Reactions

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Anger

How can I cope?

  • Connect. Talking about the event and listening to others talk about it are important ways of understanding and making sense of what happened. Find a context in which you are comfortable: one-to-one, with a group or writing in a journal. While it can be tempting to use social media for support, it can be counterproductive.
  • Stick to your routine. As much as you can, continue your usual routines. It may feel meaningless or uncomfortable, because “normal” life may not feel so normal any more. But walk through your usual activities as well as you can.
  • Give yourself time. Allow yourself time to react to the event, however you need to. If you need some time alone, take it. If you need to cry, go ahead. If you need company, seek it out.
  • Breathe. Take time throughout the day to pause and check in with yourself. Ask yourself, “How is my stress level right now?”
  • Eat. Even though you might not feel like eating, it’s important to at least have regular snacks, and preferably meals. Keeping nourished helps one cope more effectively.
  •  Sleep When coping with a difficult event, it’s more important than ever to get enough sleep. If you are struggling to fall asleep, try putting on some soothing music or using a guided relaxation exercise.
  • Stay active. Mental or physical activity can be very healing: try taking a walk, exercising, writing in a journal or reading.
  • Avoid numbing. Be aware of and avoid urges to numb your pain with drugs or alcohol. If you are taking a prescription medication, continue to follow the usual instructions and contact your doctor if you feel a change is in order.
  • Ask for help. Sometimes our feelings can become overwhelming or too intense. There are many resources available on campus. Be empowered to reach out for help. If you are troubled by any of your physical, cognitive or emotional reactions, do not hesitate to reach out for support. A parent, RA, counselor, priest, etc. can support you in your efforts to cope.

How can I contact a counselor?

If you would like to consult with a counselor about how things are going for you, call the Hamel Health and Counseling Center at 978-837-5441, or stop by the office.