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University Life & Services


Coping with Death and Grief

College students all fear death and they all believe that they will live forever. But death will enter our lives. Students therefore need to learn how to live with death, dying and grief.

Why the Fear of Death?

There are several reasons why college students may be afraid of dying:

Impact of Loss: The Grieving Process

When a loved one/classmate is dying or dies, there is a grieving process. Recovery is a slow and emotionally painful one. The grieving process can be less painful if you try to understand that loss and grief is a natural part of life. Learn to accept your loss and believe in yourself. Believe that you can cope with tragic happenings. Let your experience be a psychological growth process that will help you to deal with future stressful events.

The grieving process usually consists of the following stages. Note that not everyone goes through all these stages.

Denial and Shock

At first, it may be difficult for you to accept your own dying or the death of a loved one/classmate. As a result you will deny the reality of death. However, this denial will gradually diminish as you begins to express and share your feelings about death and dying with other students or friends.


During this stage the most common question asked is "why me?". You are angry at what you perceive to be the unfairness of death and you may project and displace your anger unto others. When given some social support and respect, you will eventually become less angry and able to move into the next stage of grieving.


Many students try to bargain with some sort of deity. They probably try to bargain and offer to give up an enjoyable part of their lives in exchange for the return of health or the lost person.


You may find yourself feeling guilty for things you did or didn't do prior to the loss. Forgive yourself. Accept your humanness.


You may at first experience a sense of great loss. Mood fluctuations and feelings of isolation and withdrawal may follow. It takes time for you, the grieving student, to gradually return to your old self and become socially involved in what's going on around you.

Please note that encouragement and reassurance to the bereaved student will not be helpful in this stage.


As you go through changes in your social life because of the loss, you may feel lonely and afraid. The more you are able to reach out to others and make new friends, the more this feeling lessens.


Acceptance does not mean happiness. Instead you accept and deal with the reality of the situation.


Eventually you will reach a point where remembering will be less painful and you can begin to look ahead to the future and more good times.

Ways to Cope with Death and Dying

Ways to Help a Bereaved Student

Help! Where to find it.

Counseling Services
120 Richmond Quad, Ellicott Complex
(716) 645-2720

Campus Ministers and Advisers External Site Link Icon
227 Student Union, North Campus
(716) 645-2998

Life Transitions Center
150 Bennett Road, Cheektowaga NY
(716) 836-6460

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Counseling Services | 120 Richmond Quad | University at Buffalo | Buffalo, NY 14261-0053 | Tel: (716) 645-2720 or 829-5800 | Fax: (716) 645-2175 | Director: Sharon Mitchell | E-Mail: