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Grief and Loss

What is grief

 Grief is a natural reaction to any kind of loss. There are many kinds of loss.

  • Physical - death of loved one, loss of home in fire, loss of body part/function after an accident.
  • Social - breakups, estrangement.
  • Occupational - loss of job, scholarship or graduate school rejection.
  • Opportunity - due to COVID could not travel abroad.

Styles of grieving

 It is important to recognize everyone grieves in their own way. So grieve emotionally and tend to express feelings and take time for reflection like creating a photo book. Others are more instrumental and express grief in concrete ways such as organizing a memorial run or getting a task accomplished. Styles can be impacted by family and cultural norms. COVID disrupted faith-based and cultural grief rituals like funerals and memorial services. Some family expectations such as extended family gatherings may be counter to the griever's desire to be left alone. 

How to help cope with grief and loss

Put on your oxygen mask

Just like putting on an oxygen mask first in an airplane before helping others, you are responsible to care for yourself. Give yourself some grace and give others grace too. Friends and family may be struggling to put on their own mask and be unavailable to support you in the way you would like. 

Ways you can care for yourself

  • Self Soothe - take it easy on yourself, be kind to yourself, find comfort in your faith.
  • Support Your Body - basics like eating, sleeping, and getting exercise. Refrain from overindulging in alcohol, shopping or overeating. Pace yourself. Maintain hobbies and interests.
  • Connect With Others - relationship

Heads up for the journey

It is a roller coaster ride and each person's journey with grief is unique. However, when grieving we face the following tasks:

Face the reality of the loss

  • We begin to:
    • Acknowledge our loss and its importance in our lives.
    • Accept the loss happened.
    • Lower our expectation to function the way we did before the loss or like the idealized version of how we think we should grieve.
    • Go through rituals of grief.
    • Think about our loved one in the past tense.

Remember and feel

  • We begin to:
    • Allow ourselves to feel the feelings and pain of grief.
    • Remember our loved ones in their complexities.
    • Can tolerate reminders of our loss without using avoidance or denial.

Attend to the results of loss

  • We begin to:
    • To cope with resulting lifestyle changes, which are unique depending on the role and relationship we had with our loved one.
    • Face holidays and milestones.
    • Explore the impact on our beliefs, get our heads around.


  • We begin to:
    • To find ways for enduring connection with our loved one while embarking on a life without them.
    • Create a legacy.
    • Take initiative - others may not remember the anniversary date of your loved one death: plan something and include others if it is important to you.

CMU resources

We realize that the academic semester does not stop. When facing a loss, academic work may be difficult to do. 

  • Check the Student Bereavement Policy for more information.
  • Talk with professors about your academic progress. You are responsible for making up your work.
  • Your professor and/or academic advisor can assist you in making decisions regarding options to withdraw, take an incomplete, grant extensions and/or have absences excused.
  • Make a Care Report. A Care team member will reach out with supports.


  • Worden J. Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner. 4th ed. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2008

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