Photo of a student reading quietly in a nook on campus by themselves.

Grief encompasses all of the ways we respond to the loss of someone or something that is important to us. Grief manifests in different ways for different people, and it’s important to remember that there is no one ‘correct’ way to grieve. Whether you or someone you know is grieving, here are some tips that can help you navigate and cope with grief.

Life events that can trigger grief

There are a variety of events that can trigger grief. Sometimes, losses are concrete, such as when a loved one passes away. Other losses may feel more ambiguous, such as when we move to a new place, change majors or break up with someone.

Here are a few examples of life events that can trigger grief for students:

Death and dying

The death or impending death of a friend, family member, significant other, pet or loved one.

Serious illness

Coping with a terminal or life-altering illness or the illness of a loved one.

Divorce or separation

Life changes, like the divorce or separation of one’s parents, or other serious family conflicts.

Academic challenges

Students may fall short or not reach the level of academic success that they expected. This can include things like test scores, GPA, admission to a specific degree program or other academic milestones.

Relationship struggles

Coping with relationship problems from general conflict to abusive behaviors. This can also encompass the end of interpersonal relationships, including friendships or romantic partnerships.

Career challenges

Students may grieve the loss of their ideal career, struggles securing a job after graduation or difficulties related to financial security or debt repayment.

What does grief feel like?

People who are grieving may experience a wide range of reactions and emotions. Feelings of grief can be intense or subtle. It’s also normal for feelings of grief to surge and subside over time. Here are some common symptoms that people experience during the grieving process:

  • Remorse: A grieving person may become preoccupied by what they could have done differently to prevent a loss from happening or to alter the outcome of an event.
  • Anger: Individuals may feel a sense of injustice or powerlessness over their situation, which can lead to feelings of anger or vengeance. Loss can also threaten beliefs that we hold about ourselves or the world around us, which can lead to feelings of confusion or regret.
  • Denial/numbness: Sometimes people need to distance themselves from significant losses or pain. This can show up as denial or numbness around a particular event or loss.
  • Feeling down: After a loss, people who are grieving may experience feelings of loneliness, isolation, sadness or hopelessness. Some people may retreat or withdraw from social groups after a loss or lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, especially if they are associated with their loss.
  • Physical symptoms: Emotional stress and grief can also cause a variety of physical symptoms, including headaches, nausea, stomach pains, changes in appetite, insomnia and other ailments. 

Learn more about symptoms of grief

Supporting someone who is grieving

Grief is often misunderstood, and it can be a tricky subject to approach, especially if someone has experienced a loss. However, there are ways that we can support ourselves and others through the process.

Ways to take care of yourself while grieving…

  • Take care of your basic needs. Rest, eat well and stay hydrated. For some, it may also be good to embrace physical contact (like hugs) as part of the healing process. Get more self-care ideas.
  • Take time to grieve. Grief can sneak up on us when we least expect it. Try to dedicate time to grieving. This will give you a structured way to get it out, while enjoying moments of peace during other times of the day.
  • Connect with others. Surround yourself with people who will let you experience your feelings, whether you need to cry, sit in silence or tell someone your story again and again.
  • Channel your feelings. Find an outlet for your feelings. Journaling can be a great way to express and externalize everything that is going on inside of you. You may also find talking to be helpful. Find what works best for you and dedicate time to working through your feelings.
  • Be patient. Your grief may take longer to process than you or others expect. Be patient with yourself as you work through your feelings and show yourself kindness as you move through this process. 

Ways to support someone who is grieving…

  • Reach out. Grief can feel isolating, so it’s important to reach out to our loved ones who are grieving. Check in with them and let them know you’re thinking about them.
  • Help out. Offer support by helping out with household chores, meals, planning social events or other tasks that may feel overwhelming.
  • Listen to them. Take time to listen to your loved one and let them express their emotions. Avoid sharing judgment or advice. Instead, try to simply be there for them.
  • Don’t avoid the subject. If someone lost a person they were close to, don’t worry about avoiding the person’s name or bringing them up in conversation. Remember that the loss of someone doesn’t mean they should be forgotten.
  • Encourage them to seek support. If someone is struggling with grief or depressive feelings, encourage them to seek support. Campus resources are available for students, staff and faculty.


Student resources

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS)

CAPS offers short-term counseling, consultation services, workshops, community referrals and crisis support for CU Boulder students and graduate students.

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event.

Peer Wellness Coaching

Peer Wellness Coaching is a free service available to students to help them set and achieve wellness goals. Peer wellness coaches are familiar with a variety of topics, including stress, relationships, academics, self-care, sleep, finances and more.

Health Promotion

Health Promotion offers free weekly programs that focus on self-care, community-building, stress management and more. Topic areas change weekly and events are open to all students.

Staff and faculty resources


Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event.

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP)

FSAP provides free short-term counseling for CU Boulder employees both in person and online. 

Wellness events

FSAP offers a variety of free wellness events throughout the semester that focus on self-care, community care, personal growth and support.