Coping With Loss

Support for individuals or groups

The Counseling Center offers crisis support for individuals in the immediate days and weeks after a loss. Please call 573-882-6601 or come to our office (435 Strickland Hall) during regular business hours. After hours support is available by phone at 573-882-6601. Additionally, a group of students can elect to come in to the center together for crisis support after a loss.

The Counseling Center is also here to support groups of students who may be experiencing a shared loss. We are happy to offer support at important times such as vigils or memorials; classes or meetings where students are learning about or have space to talk about recent loss; or to be present in spaces where students may more easily access support after a loss. Please contact Dr. Kerri Schafer at 573-882-6601 to discuss how the Counseling Center can best provide support.

Understand the Personal Response to Grief

Over the course of our life, each of us experiences the death of someone we love. Whether this loss occurs as a result of illness, accident, or other trauma, we are left with a mixture of thoughts and feelings. The following suggestions are offered to assist you in understanding the constructive process of grief and the importance of remembering your loved one.

It is Important to Accept Yourself

Grief is a natural and universal experience. Each of us, however, experiences loss in ways that are characteristic of our upbringings and personalities. Although there are some commonalities, there are no fixed formulas or schedules to which you must conform. Accepting yourself is an important step toward a healthy grief process.

Your Feelings Are Normal

Following the loss of a loved one, a range of emotions may be experienced. These feelings include sadness, fear, despair, confusion, anger, guilt, and even a sense of numbness. These emotions may be felt in varying degrees of intensity and over differing periods of time. Your daily living patterns may trigger memories of your loss and associated feelings. Family celebrations, holidays, favorite places, songs, and experiences that were formerly shared with the loved one may trigger your feelings.

In the midst of your grieving, it is normal for you to wonder if your sorrow will ever end. In time, the memories of your loved one will remain, but the intensity of your strongest emotions will subside. It may be helpful to think of your bereavement as a cycle in which periodically you are reminded of the loss and associated feelings.

Your Daily Routine May Change

It is important to value and maintain connections with others. Following the death of a significant other, a person may feel quite different. You may be physically fatigued, have difficulty sleeping, experience an inability to concentrate for long periods, and lose some of your normal appetite. You may also find that your interest in work, social activities, and being with others diminishes somewhat.

Conversely, some people increase their involvement in work related and social activities in order to preoccupy their mind and energy and avoid some of the uncomfortable feelings associated with loss. However a person chooses to adapt, it is important to value and maintain connections with others and engage in a healthy balance through work, leisure, and rest.

Plan to regularly participate in some form of relaxation and a physical activity like walking, perhaps in the company of another person. If significant changes that affect your ability to function on a daily basis persist, this may be a cue to see a professional for consultation and specialized assistance.

Constructing a Hopeful Future

Be kind to yourself
Try to establish reasonable expectations about your ability and energy to meet current responsibilities. Guard against taking on new projects too soon and lighten your load where possible. Remember that bereavement with its differing levels of intensity is a natural and essential process.

Create ways of remembering your loved one
Rituals can help us recall the positive dimensions of our relationship and connect us with community. Activities like journal writing, meditation, prayer, walking, singing, and visiting places formerly shared with the loved one can be creative outlets for your thoughts and feelings.

Center yourself spiritually
Remind yourself of goals you have set for yourself. Remember the ways your loved one contributed to helping you develop and achieve your potentials. Imagine a future purpose for yourself and ways you wish to contribute to others. Remind yourself in a variety of ways that your life has meaning. If you practice a religion, utilize its symbols, activities, and community to comfort and provide perspective.

Envision a Hopeful Future
Share your thoughts and feelings with others. Allow them to be with you during this very important part of life. Try to remain physically active and sensitive to the beauty of life around you. Imagine there can be meaning to your future. Envision the love you felt for the person you lost will survive as a foundation for a creative future.

Be Helpful During Times of Grief

  • Communicate your concern for the other person
  • Initiate conversation, listen, and be willing to talk about the loss.
  • Be available
  • Let the person know that you are available, if needed.
  • Avoid making judgments about how a person should be feeling during their grief
  • People express their thoughts and emotions in a variety of ways, with differing levels of intensity and frequency.
  • Acknowledge the difficulties in having easy answers to the hard questions about life and death
  • Affirm the appropriateness of questions and encourage conversation.
  • Remember the importance of anniversaries, celebrations, and activities in which the loved one formerly participated
  • Be sensitive to the memories special occasions and activities hold for the person.
  • Reaffirm the value in your relationship
  • Be mindful of the importance in various types of relationships, e.g., friend, class mate, family member, neighbor, colleague, partner, or intimate.
  • Be sensitive to the cyclic nature of the grief process.
  • Be patient. Remember that grief can appear to come and go for no apparent reason. There is no fixed time in which the bereavement process is to be over.