Dealing with grief at university

University is a challenge for many people already, and things can be so much more difficult if you have to experience grief at the same time. Grief effects us all differently and it’s important to find your own way to manage. Here are four things that may help you in a difficult time.


Often grief will strike out of nowhere, whether it’s the passing of a loved one or pet, or even grief from another source such as through losing a strong friendship. This time can be overwhelming, making your normal day-to-day tasks harder than usual. It’s key that you process and cope with these emotions in your own way. This could take weeks, months or even longer but time is key. Even though it may seem like University work needs to be the priority, there are steps you can take such as assignment extensions which will allow you longer to arrange and organise what you are feeling without compromising your work. It may also be the case that diving into your work helps you deal with your loss, however you should be careful not to place any unnecessary pressure on yourself.

Two people's hands holding each other on top of a table.


We talk to release the thoughts in our heads, and when we grieve often we are consumed by all different types of emotion. Although you may not always want to discuss what you’re going through, expressing yourself to people you trust can go a long way to helping you grieve. For many of us, the first point of call is other members of our family who, in a lot of cases, are often going through the same grief. Discussing everything together may help validate your thoughts and feelings, making you feel less alone, especially if the grief is shared. At University, your flatmates might be a good place to seek guidance. However, this may not always be the best option for some people, particularly if you aren’t that close to the people you live with. In this case, the University’s Health and Wellbeing resources are there to provide you with help and guidance. They’ll give you advice on how best to deal with your situation and how you can cope with the pressures of University at the same time. It is important to keep your options open when you’re in a vulnerable space so that you don’t feel completely alone.

Do the things you love to do

It might seem like you can’t possibly do anything fun or enjoyable when you are coping with a loss, but it may help ease some of the emotional burden. Hobbies bring us joy and we do them to escape from the stress of day-to-day life. Grief can feel inescapable at the time, but try and give yourself the space to continue to practice what you love to do. This may give you the break you need in order to manage your emotions in a slow and gradual way. It also ensures that some of your focus is elsewhere. Take time out of your day away from studying and other responsibilities and try your best to put your full attention into one of your hobbies. Whilst this might seem difficult to begin with, if you make it part of your routine it could be deeply beneficial. It may also give you the time you need to think about your grief in a calm setting where you can allow yourself a moment to process your feelings.

A planner with a pressed leaf, some sketches and a pencil on top. The planner sits on top of some knitting. There is a ball of yarn to the side connected to the knitting and four more balls of yarn at the bottom. At the top of the image is a keyboard.

Make plans

Whilst grief might be the only thought in your mind, taking yourself out of the present and thinking into the future may help. You can start by reaching out, whether that is to friends or family, and setting dates for things you would like to do with those people. This gives you things to look forward to, giving you a sense of perspective, and allows you to actively seek out people who you trust and who can give you support. Even if it’s only a coffee or a quick lunch with a university friend, it acts to distract you as well as giving you an avenue for advice and possible solutions from people who care for you. Looking to the future might seem a difficult thing to do, however it could give you the momentum you need to deal with the loss or losses you have experienced.

Grief is something we all face at some point and when we have responsibilities such as university or work, this can appear much more distressing. It’s important to note that everybody is different in how they deal with grieving, however hopefully this advice can help if you are ever in need of it.

Once more, you can find further support through Student Services.

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