Prolonged Grief Disorder and Resources for College Students
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About one-third of college students in the U.S. have had at least one friend or family member who died within the past year. For someone experiencing prolonged grief disorder, their symptoms of grief are more intense and last longer than social, cultural or religious norms. As a result, they may struggle to complete daily activities such as going to work or school.

Here are some common symptoms of prolonged grief disorder:

  • Self-isolating
  • Feeling sad and/or guilty
  • Having thoughts about ending one’s life
  • Experiencing loss that consumes one’s thoughts
  • Having difficulty accepting the loss
  • Experiencing emotional numbness
  • Either obsessing over or entirely avoiding things that remind a person of their loss

Instead of lessening with time, these symptoms either stay the same or worsen in college students with prolonged grief disorder.

Resources for college students with prolonged grief disorder

If you recognize any of the above symptoms in yourself, it’s important to be aware of resources for prolonged grief disorder so you can take care of yourself, even while grieving the person you lost. Here are five key types of resources to help college students manage prolonged grief disorder:

  • Support groups — Support groups can help you feel validated by listening to other college students with prolonged grief disorder. Examples of support groups you can consider include Grief in Common, My Grief Angels and Lightfully’s free Mental Health Support Group.
  • Videos — There are several videos about prolonged grief disorder that you can watch in your dorm room. Here is a video by Nora McInerny that describes how she coped with loss. This video by Drexel University’s Counseling Center highlights that college students experiencing grief are not alone.
  • Articles — Reading articles on advice for coping with grief may help as well. For example, “Coping With Grief and Loss in College” was written by a college student from the University of Missouri. 
  • Websites — If you want more information about prolonged grief disorder but aren’t ready to talk to someone yet, there are many websites available to you. For example, Living With Heart is a blog with posts about experiencing grief. Some of these posts discuss the concepts of renewal and meaning. In addition, the Coalition to Support Grieving Students can help you identify triggers for your grief and provides info on resources to use when in a mental health crisis. If you have prolonged grief disorder and are in a crisis and needing immediate support, then you can call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988. This resource is available 24/7. 
  • Books — If you’re a college student looking for books about coping with loss, there are several great options. For example, one bibliography of grief resources includes a list of books that apply to specific aspects of grief, such as death, spiritual and cultural environments, and supporting grieving people. Another option is Marilyn E. Gootman’s book “When a Friend Dies: A Book for Teens About Grieving & Healing.” This book may be beneficial because it focuses on how grief affects college students differently than adults. A third option is T.J. Wray’s book “Surviving the Death of a Sibling: Living Through Grief When an Adult Brother or Sister Dies.” As the title suggests, this book focuses on coping with the death of an adult sibling. A fourth option is Therese A. Rando’s book “How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies.” This book includes information about support groups for people who are grieving. This information can be helpful for college students who are looking for resources to help them as they grieve.

Lightfully U offers help for prolonged grief disorder

If you’re a college student dealing with prolonged grief, there is hope.

At Lightfully, we value treatment that’s supported by evidence and data. This treatment prioritizes you as a whole person — not just one aspect of your life.

Lightfully U reflects Lightfully’s treatment values. Lightfully U is a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP). This program can help college students with prolonged grief disorder receive the support and care they need. A Lightfully U vIOP is a safe, welcoming space that includes:

  • An initial psychiatric assessment
  • 10 to 15 sessions with a peer group led by a mental health professional per week (peer groups are capped at 10 students, allowing for a more personalized experience)
  • An individual session with an experienced primary therapist every week
  • Experiential activities intended to help you apply the skills you’re learning in your therapy sessions to real-life situations.

Change is possible. When you’re ready, you can contact us to learn more about treatment for prolonged grief disorder. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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