Illustrated by Abigail Phoenix

Dealing With Grief as a Student

Grief affects everyone differently and we all have our own ways of coping with it, it’s hard enough to cope…

Grief affects everyone differently and we all have our own ways of coping with it, it’s hard enough to cope with grief generally, without adding the stress of university on top of that. You don’t just have to deal with the emotional aspects, but the practical aspects such as applying for extensions or mitigating circumstances. After losing my Grandma in 2020, I learned that it can be difficult to know where to go for help or what to do about your studies, but hopefully, I can pass on some of the important things I learned to you.

Take some time for yourself

Even if you have deadlines coming up, take some time to process what you’re feeling and be with your loved ones. This part is crucial as it’s the foundation block to dealing with your grief, if you rush back into normal life you’ll suppress what you’re feeling, which isn’t good for your physical or mental health.

It’s okay if you miss a deadline, if you feel like you can speak to someone at the university you could apply for an extension, but if you don’t you can apply for mitigating circumstances up to 10 days after your submission deadline.

Bring back a comfort item

If you’ve gone home to be with family or attend a funeral, bring back a comfort item with you. This could be something from your childhood or something that reminds you of the person you lost. When I started facing the world again after losing my Grandma, I would wear some of her jewellery, or a scarf she gave to me when I was in college. It helped me feel a lot closer to her and my family, reminding me of all the happy times I had with her.

Consider taking some time off

Sometimes grief can affect you so much that you just can’t face coming back to uni, and that’s okay! You shouldn’t feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to (or can’t) do. You can interrupt your studies if you need more time to yourself, which means that you’ll effectively pause your course (and your fees) until the next academic year. When you return you’ll have to complete any modules you haven’t passed, which might be all of them.

If you’re worried about Student Finance and your tuition fees, you can get up to four years of funding, and in exemplary circumstances, you can apply to Student Finance England to write off a year of funding.

While I was dealing with my grief I made the decision to retake my second year, and the difference in my grades was phenomenal. I went from getting 3rd’s and fails to 2:1’s in my assignments, proving that taking extra time for myself was the right decision.

Speak to someone

Whatever you do, don’t bottle up what you’re going through. To be able to move forward and feel happy remembering the memories of the person you lost, you first need to deal with the pain. You can contact Student Wellbeing who offer drop-in sessions and counselling, or you could self-refer to Lincolnshire Talking Therapies.

It’s best to talk with someone who is equipped to deal with these kinds of situations, and who can give you advice to help you through the grieving process. After my Grandma passed I recognised that I was heading to a dark place, so I started seeing a counsellor every week, who I still see now. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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