I attended some training recently with an external charity, the Student Grief Network, who want to raise awareness of talking openly about grief and loss and how university staff can offer support to students who are experiencing this. I wanted to give you a quick summary of what was covered as you may find it helpful as Personal Tutors.
Some key concepts related to grief and loss
- We all have experienced grief and loss in some form.
- We all experience it differently depending on lots of different factors, e.g. how an individual died, our relationship to the person etc. It's important here that we don't assume feelings/relationships, e.g. we often talk about grief/loss as losing loved ones and an individual may not having that feeling.
- Highlighted how grief can be heightened within a university context e.g. being away from home, the pressures of the academic cycle, the societal expectations of what student life is etc.
Supporting others who are experiencing grief and loss
The charity recommended 5 top tips when supporting students who are experiencing grief/loss
- Small gestures to show you care - e.g. sensitive emails acknowledging the students distress, a series of follow up emails to remind the student that you are still there and to check whether you can help.
- Opportunity to talk without forcing or intruding - e.g. being available to talk but accepting that sometimes an individual may not want to. Letting the student know you are always there for them should they want to talk.
- Providing practical help and support - e.g. helping with some simple tasks that may feel overwhelming for the student, e.g. finding the IMC form, offering to let other staff who need to know your circumstances know etc.
- Give space and respect changes - e.g. recognise in yourself that the student before and after may be very different - recognise changes from a position of care and curiosity
- Signpost to support - e.g. a student may want to off-load. Set you own limits and offer 30 minutes where you can listen. Acknowledge you won't know the answers but you can help them to find support if needed.