Universities have a responsibility to guide and support their students through mental health struggles, and grief is no exception to this.
Processing the loss of a loved one can be a lonely and heartbreaking experience, especially in the midst of the coronavirus crisis when so many are isolated and under pressure.
While university students may come face-to-face with grief at all stages of life, the pandemic has made this a grim reality for too many people.
In order to restrict the spread of the coronavirus, hospitals have had to impose restrictions on visits, meaning that the process of saying goodbye to loved ones has been particularly difficult.
It’s crucial that your institution acknowledges the pain that many students will be experiencing at this time, as well as supporting students through their grief, whether this relates to COVID-19 or not.
Common reactions to the loss of a loved one include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
However, not every person will experience grief in the same way, meaning that the support required for each individual will vary.
It’s important that your institution has experts available who are trained in supporting people through this confusing time.
According to the latest QS coronavirus report, 70% of higher education professionals say their campus is not currently open to students. This highlights the need to arrange virtual or phone mental health services during the pandemic.
Some students will prefer to process grief by sharing in the experiences of others via support groups. According to the Loss Foundation, support groups allow people to share their experiences in a “confidential and non-judgmental space.”
Ensure your students are aware of the support groups available in their community and direct them to any virtual sessions that may be taking place.
Another way universities can support their students through the grieving process is by being more flexible with lectures, assignments, and exams.
Many students experiencing trauma can struggle to concentrate, or to stick to exam, assignment, and study schedules.
In order to keep their education moving forward, students may require extra support and flexibility with scheduling during this difficult period.
At Imperial College London, students are encouraged to reach out to their senior or personal tutors “so they can support you and make reasonable adjustments in your time of need.”
In general, students should feel that their university is a safe space in which to grieve, where both their mental health and education are supported and protected.
By recognizing the need to heighten grief support during this time, universities can fulfill this responsibility and support students during a complex and challenging crisis.
For more information on how higher education institutions will be planning for the year ahead, please see our latest coronavirus report.