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The Impacts of Grief on the Physical, Emotional and Mental Wellbeing of Students

By Kayla Galiotte


Have you ever felt alone after losing someone who was important to you? Does it feel like no one knows exactly what you are going through?          


Well, you're not alone. According to a study by researchers in the Office of Counseling and Wellness Service in the University of Eastern Washington--conducted to analyze how grief impacts the academic career of college students—60% of college students overall report having experienced a loss by the end of their academic career. The study also found that death of a loved one can result in a decline in academic performance, and cause social anxiety, sleep disturbances and possible depression.


Amara Clarke, a criminal justice major in her junior year at Adelphi, shared her experience of when her friend and fellow Panther passed away suddenly in the fall semester. 


“DJ was very popular and very outgoing. December 7, 2023, was the day I found out he passed. I can’t even remember how I functioned for the rest of the day,” she said. “All I remember was walking to my 1:40 p.m. class, expecting to see him with a big smile on his face and hugging me as he usually does, but then I realized I would never see my friend again.” 


Clarke added, “This experience has pushed me to pray and seek God more. I know I’ll never see my friend again on this earth, but I know he’d tell me to keep my head up and to keep going. I want to make my friend proud, so no matter how hard it  is, I’ll keep going. Long Live DJ.”


To help her and others cope, Clarke formed a bible study support group on campus where students can get together and support each other through prayer and discussions. 

  Grief can have a major impact on the day-to-day lives of students, said Sasha Miller, a social worker at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York. She works with patients ages 5 to 23, providing counseling to patients to overcome challenges such as grief. 


“Grief is a big drastic change in our lives. Or anytime that we experience a major shift, major transition or stress that happens in somebody’s life it affects how our day-to-day life goes,” Miller said, adding that the loss of a loved one is in correlation to physical and mental illness. “Stress and illness can have a major effect on the body.  You'll notice many stomach-related problems, especially with people who have a lot of anger and sadness. They tend to have stomach aches, trouble with their digestive system, and people get headaches. These symptoms can vary depending on the individual.”


 Miller said that there’s a significant difference between helping a patient who is aware of the fact that they are grieving and helping someone who isn’t conscious that the death is actually bothering them. 


“A person who is open and willing to talk is already acknowledging that grief has an effect on them and that they want to feel differently than what they are feeling now and they want to do something to change that,” she said. “So it is much easier when someone recognizes that there is an issue going on to guide them through it and have them listen, take part, adapt and actually do those things in a way that can help them. They get involved in their own treatment where it is two-sided.” 


According to Miller, the first step is to “crack that shell of that person to even get to them acknowledging that there is a problem. I have to establish safety with a person like that because the reason that they are holding back is because they do not feel safe. Even if they do not realize it.” 


Jayden Alce, a sophomore nursing major at Adelphi, lost his grandfather when he was 16. It was a sudden death and although they weren’t close, he didn’t process it until years later.  “I only processed his death later on when classmates and friends would always talk about stories with their grandparents, and that exclusion brought out my curiosity. Taking care of my mother and how she felt was my only goal. I had a responsibility and I felt I did what needed to be done even if it meant not processing his death entirely on my own,” he said. 

Miller pointed to the fact that we are socially conditioned to react the way we do when someone asks us if we’re okay. 


“When people are asked how they are feeling, right off the bat they’ll reply saying everything is okay. But in reality they are not okay,” she said. “Socially we’re all conditioned to say very similar things like when someone says, `How are you?’ Usually, we just give that immediate response back like, ‘Oh I am fine,’ even if we’re not actually fine.”  


Miller does grief work in individual therapy to process those suppressed emotions. She said that students should be encouraged to speak with a guidance counselor on campus or therapist during this difficult time to ensure that their mental and physical health are not disrupted. The Student Counseling Center provides comprehensive mental health, preventative and educational services to any student enrolled at Adelphi. Learn more at https://www.adelphi.edu/scc

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