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Coping with Death and Dying

Unfortunately, many innocent students die on college campuses every day. Those students leave family, friends, and other loved ones with grief, sadness, and even anger. The way in which we cope with these events can definitely impact those around us, whether it be through healthy unhealthy coping mechanisms. It is important to know that the grieving process is an appropriate way of coping with the loss of a loved one. 

What is classified as "The Grieving Process?"

After a loved one dies, it can definitely be difficult to accomplish mundane every day tasks. Recovery can be a very slow and painful process; however, developing an understanding of the reason for this loss is a natural part of life. As humans, we are programmed to naturally cope with these tragic happenings. Allowing yourself to feel pain and sadness can be difficult; however, it can be necessary to overcome the tragic event and obtain full acceptance.

The Grieving Process typically consists of the following stages; however, please note that the process differs for each person:


Denial is definitely a part of the process. This typically comes after hearing the news that a loved one has passed away. As a result, you may not fully accept the reality that this person(s) has died--this is perfectly normal. The denial will begin to diminish as you begin to share your thoughts and feelings about the event with family, friends, or even a counselor.


You may begin to question, "Why me?" or "Why him/her?" You may become angry at the unfairness of death and project or displace your feelings on others--this often happens when we try to develop an understanding of the event, but continue to deny what has occurred. Typically, after consulting with family, friends, or even a counselor, you can begin to become less angry about the situation and progress to the next stage of grieving.


After the loss of a loved one, many individuals try to give up an enjoyable part of their lives in exchange for the person(s) back. Typically, you may hear others say, "What I wouldn't have given to have one more day with ______." or "If I just had one day with _____."


After the loss of a loved one, many individuals begin to blame themselves or put themselves in the deceased person's shoes--"it should have been me." It can be difficult to move past this; however, remember to forgive yourself and accept humanness.


It is perfectly normal to feel sadness. You may also feel mood disturbances and want to isolate socially from others. It is important to know that grieving takes time and it may feel like it is neverending; however, remember that you are not alone. Encouragement and reassurance from others may not be helpful in this stage, especially if you or someone you know is suffering from prolonged depression.


As you go through the process, you may begin to feel lonely and afraid. In this stage it is especially important for you to reach out to those around you for love and support, which can be very difficult.


It is important to note that acceptance does not mean happiness. Instead, it incorporates a full understanding of the situation and active coping stategies to look towards the future.

What can I do to cope with death and dying?

  • Do not be afraid to discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, family member or counselor. You are always welcome to schedule an appointment at Counseling Services (618-650-2842) to talk with a counselor about the death of a loved one.
  • Remain hopeful--the pain and suffering does not last forever
  • Join a support group
  • Remember self-care--this could be even the little things, such as eating a balanced meal, getting adequate rest, relaxation, exercise
  • Remember, you are not alone

What can I do to help a friend or family member who is grieving the loss of a loved one?

  • Remain supportive
  • Provide a listening ear
  • Encourage him/her to seek professional help, if applicable
  • Develop an understanding; however, refrain from using "I know how you feel."


SIUE Counseling Services

618-650-2842 SSC 0220

Open M-F 8am-4:30pm

The Grief Process ( SUNY at Buffalo)

Books on Death and Grieving

  • Final Passages by Judith Ahronheim & Doron Weber
  • The Scarred Soul by Tracy Alderman
  • How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Harold H. Bloomfield, Melba Colgrave & Peter McWilliams
  • The Living Will by Joseph E. Beltran
  • On Death And Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
  • Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst
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