Three Tips for Returning to School After Experiencing a Loss

Posted by: Erin Ward in Grief and Guidance | August 5

Going back to school after experiencing the loss of a loved one can be a difficult and uncomfortable experience for students of any age. To help make grieving while navigating returning to school a little bit easier, we’re sharing our top three tips. We hope that they help you as you grieve your loss and adjust back into your studies.


1. Let People Know How They Can Help Support You 

The first step is letting those around you understand your needs and how to best support you. At school, this may include your guidance counselor, teachers or professors, leaders of extracurricular activities, and classmates. However, you shouldn’t be expected to express these needs to each one of your peers. If you talk with your counselor or teacher, they could relay any important information to your classmates, such as if you’re comfortable talking about your loved one or if you’d rather avoid the subject. 


As for your coursework, you and your teacher can come up with a plan as you adjust back into your studies. If you’re having a hard time with your grief, it’s perfectly okay to ask for extensions on coursework. Or if you’re having trouble focusing while in class, see if you can get some one-on-one help during your teacher’s office hours. Or if you need some privacy, find a place to be alone with your thoughts, such as a counselor’s office or a peaceful outdoor space.  


Another option is to attend school virtually as you navigate your grief. This way, you are in the comfort of your own home, and you can easily log off for a bit if you need some time to yourself.  


As you can see, there are many options to choose from, so you can work with your school to find the best option for you. 

 

2. Don’t Feel Rushed to Join Extracurricular Activities 

Once you return to school, that doesn’t mean you must jump right back into your extracurricular activities. You can get involved in them whenever you’re ready. Like we mentioned above, talk with the leader of your activity to come up with a plan.  


For example, if you participate in a sport and would rather ease back onto the team, see if you can start by attending a few practices and games per week. Then, you can transition back into the full practice and game schedule when you’re comfortable. Or if you don’t feel comfortable participating yet, see if there’s another way you can still be involved, such as helping your coach from the sidelines. 


An activity that you may want to consider joining is your school’s grief support group. This way, you have a safe space to talk about your loved one and your grief. You also can connect with others who are coping with a similar loss and help support each other. If your school doesn’t have a group, talk with your counselor about starting one.  

 

3. Take Care of Your Mental and Physical Health 

Lastly, while grieving and adjusting back into your coursework, don’t forget to take care of your mental and physical health. Some of the most common physical symptoms of grief include:  

  • Achiness  
  • Anxiety attacks 
  • Insomnia  
  • Loss of appetite  
  • Shortness of breath  
  • Tiredness 

To take care of your body and mind while grieving your loss, make sure to practice self-care. One simple way to do this is to find some way to exercise every day, whether that’s working out at the campus gym or going for a walk on your lunch break. However, listen to your body and what it needs; if you need to take a day to just rest, that’s perfectly fine. You could curl up with a good book or listen to some music to relax. 

 

Do you have any other tips for returning to school after experiencing a loss? Share them in the comments.

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