The grief response
Grief responses and timelines vary. Responses can be emotional or not at all. Grief can elicit feelings such as fatigue, or even an intellectual response, such as advocacy.
The grief response can affect the way one engages and copes. This can include changes to decision making, time management, attention and mood regulation.
Experiencing grief in post-secondary
Grieving in university is a common experience, especially for students. A common loss for students can be that of a grandparent or a fellow student. These losses can sometimes be deemed by others as less important than a death of a parent or sibling. This can lead to disenfranchisement for the griever. It is important to not minimize grief of any form.
Grief is a complex, whole-person experience. Our bodies and minds have different ways of expressing that. There is not a right, single reliable procedure or process for grieving. That is where laughter, anger, numbness, even motivation are all things that can occur in response to grief, and they don’t have a particular timeline.
Keeta Gladue, MSW'22
How can I support someone grieving?
When someone is grieving, there is nothing to resolve or fix. In many cases, those experiencing grief and loss need someone who is open, patient, and present. Someone who is willing to listen, without judgement. If you're supporting a loved one, peer, or other person you hold a relationship with, consider:
- Saying something simple e.g. I'm sorry for your loss, I'm here for you
- Actively listening when someone is sharing
- Consider offering practical support, depending on the relationship you have with that person:
- Be specific, by asking when you can support and providing a suggestion of what you can support with, such as cooking a meal, running an errand, or doing a helpful chore
What should I avoid when supporting someone grieving?*
Sometimes a message of support can be read differently than we intend it to. When supporting someone who is grieving try to avoid the following:
Setting out to solve or fix someone’s grief
Minimizing the grief
Using platitudes (e.g. They're in a better place now)
Conveying the expectation for someone to get over it
Expressing frustration over someone’s grief
*Just like there is no right way to grieve, there is no right way to support someone in their grief. Give yourself permission to not say the perfect thing. Showing up imperfectly is better than not showing up at all.
Resources to support grief
Supports through UCalgary
- Student Wellness Services - book a counselling appointment to receive support
- Grief Gang Club - this student club aims to normalize conversations around grief, decrease the isolation that grief can bring, as well as create a strong community and safe space for those grieving
- Mental Health Consultant - receive confidential consultation in seeking grief and loss support and resources
- Employee and Family Assistance Program - benefit-eligible staff can log-in to find self-guided resources or call 1.866.424.0699 to book an appointment with a counsellor
For students, faculty and staff
- Faith and Spirituality Centre - receive spiritual support from a Faith Representative or a Chaplain
Local and online resources
- Canadian Mental Health Commission - grief resources and local contacts
- Alberta Health Services - call 403-955-8011 to access the grief program
- Wellness Together Canada - access grief coaching and other mental health supports
- The Dinner Party - online peer support grief meet-ups
- Refuge in Grief - online resources and further readings
I think grief can tell us something about someone or something we care for. Honouring what we care for and what others care for, looking out for each other, holding space for grief, not treating it like it’s a problem, are all dignifying ways of responding.
Julie Stewart, MSW'19
This page was developed on behalf of the Campus Mental Health Strategy. Learn more about the impetus of these resources. Read story