Coping With A Bereavement During Uni
Losing someone is hard enough as it is, but is becomes more difficult when you are studying abroad and either can’t make it back home, or have returned and still feel that everything is not yet back to normal. Everybody has their own way of grieving, but it’s okay to ask for help.
Take some time off
To some, continuing to go to class is a needed routine. It keeps the mind busy and it masks the pain – for some, this works. For others, it is just a temporary solution because it feels like “ignoring” the problem.
The best thing to do in this case is to take some days off to try and sort it out at your own pace.
Course advisors are usually very sympathetic: write an email explaining your situation, ask for a couple of days off, and assure them you will keep up to date with course material via a friend, or ask if you can schedule a meeting to brush up on the class.
If the event happens close to a deadline, an extension of an assignment may be needed. Bring this up with your professor, who will either grant you a few days more to complete it or, in the event that you are requesting a longer extension, direct you to the mitigating circumstances page.
Mitigating circumstances are classified as “unpreventable situations that significantly disrupt student performance in assessment”; professors are quite tedious about evidence of your situation if they are to give you an extension for mitigating circumstances.
Your university will have its own policy about how to go about requesting this, but usually you will be asked to fill a form and provide evidence (often in the form of certificates), and must do all of this within a requested deadline of the event (all this should be clarified in your university’s websites).
It may sound daunting, but that’s why your university’s student union exists. They are there to support you and guide you through all processes of your uni life, including this one. If you’ve decided that you want to file a mitigating circumstances request, (but are not sure how to go about it), contact your student union and they will help you.
What about my job?
In the UK, you’re entitled to “time off for dependants”; this is a “reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant, such as a spouse, partner, child, parent or anyone living in the household. It could also be someone who relies on an employee for their care or for help during an emergency, such as an elderly neighbour.”
If the loss doesn’t not involve a ‘dependant’, some work places may grant you “compassionate leave”, although this is not always mentioned in the contacts and should be arranged between employer and manager at their own discretion.
Worst case scenario you can always use your holiday allowance, but often the first two will work.
Allow yourself to grieve
Don’t supress your grief. It’s more than okay to cry, feel down, be angry, and feel sad – it’s human. For some, this release gives way to a healing process. Talking to somebody over the phone or skype is helpful, but may not have the same effect as talking to somebody in person. In fact, some people find that taking to a stranger helps best.
All universities offer some form of (free) counselling services, either via their homepage or through the local GP. Contact them to schedule a meeting. It varies, but the services are usually once-a-week, one-hour one-to-one appointments where you can express your thoughts to an impartial listener.
Take care of yourself
Sometimes you don’t need any of the above; all you need is to be by yourself. If you don’t cry, that doesn’t make you heartless. If your pain lasts for years, that doesn’t mean you’re weak. The way grief affects you is nothing to be ashamed of; the important thing is to know when to reach out for help and to know that it’s okay to do so.
Inspiring Interns is a recruitment agency specialising in all the internships and graduate jobs London has to offer. Xiomara Meyer is a drama and creative writing graduate with an interest in psychology and the slightly bizarre. Samples of her prose can be found here