Grief, College Students, and Why We Should Talk About it

January 30, 2023

Grief is a possible response to those who have undergone a loss in life. Studies have shown that around 37% to 44% of college students experience a loss within the first 2 years of their academic career. While 60% of college students overall report having experienced a loss by the end of their academic career (Shea & Bistricean, 2021). Some common examples of what loss can look like in college are the following: 

  • Death of a family member
  • Death of a friend
  • Loss of a friendship 
  • Loss of a relationship 
  • Loss of time 
  • Loss of safety or security
  • Loss of youthfulness 
  • Loss of financial security

It is also important to consider that this list is non exhaustive, due to loss being a subjective process, meaning it is based on or influenced by a person’s own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It is important to talk to your students about how they are doing when experiencing grief as for many this may be one of their first significant losses in life. Creating a safe space for your student to feel safe sharing about their grief & loss is of utmost importance, as college students who experience grief & loss often suffer from a decrease in academic performance, mental, and physical health  (Shea & Bistricean, 2021). 

College students experiencing grief due to a loss may experience the following emotions: 

  • Anger/Guilt 
  • Avoidance
  • Shock/Denial 
  • Loneliness
  • Questioning
  • Deep Sadness
  • Anxiety

These possible emotions are considered typical responses associated with grief. College students in the process of grieving may feel as though their plan for the future has now been altered in some way. Working with your student to normalize these responses, actively listen, and simply just being present, is likely the best way to provide your support & show that you care. Grief for many is often an uncomfortable conversation. In society we often avoid talking about death, loss, or grief until we ourselves are in the midst of experiencing it. However, if we can work to normalize this inevitable process of life it might allow space for those struggling with loss to come forward and seek help when needed. At EWU our Counseling & Wellness Service (CWS) office offers up to 6 personal counseling sessions per academic year. Students who are experiencing a loss or are currently grieving and would like to initiate services are encouraged to contact our office at 509.359.2366. 

Office Contact: Counseling & Wellness Services- 225 Martin Hall 
Office hours: 8:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m  Monday through Friday
Walk in-Crisis Hours 1-4:00 p.m Monday through Friday
cws@ewu.edu | 509.359.2366
Counseling Website




Houben, L. M. (2017). Transforming grief & loss: Workbook. PESI Publishing & Media.

Shea, M., & Bistricean, C. (2021). Understanding bereavement among college students: Implications for practice and Research. International Dialogues on Education Journal, 8(1), 59–94. https://doi.org/10.53308/ide.v8i1.244