Feb 272005
Authors: Jennifer Johnson

Coping with a loss is difficult, and for many students it may be hard to find time to grieve, especially when balancing the hectic schedule of college life.

Steve Ross, clinical coordinator and psychologist at the University Counseling Center, is the director of the Loss and Transition group at CSU.

"The Loss and Transition group is meant to help individuals make life transitions and cope with losses," Ross said. "This includes any significant loss issues, such as losing a family member, loved one or even ending a relationship."

The group meets weekly and usually includes six to eight students per session. Meetings are also provided in the course of global issues, such as the Columbine incident, in which students may need a place to discuss related issues and express their feelings.

"The group is an educational and support process that provides a safe environment in which students can openly discuss their feelings among others who understand," Ross said.

Ross feels the group is productive in helping individuals cope with a loss because they are surrounded by others who are going through the same thing.

"It is easier to empathize with those who are in the same state of mind as you," he said. "The group is a very non-judgmental environment that allows students to grieve at their own pace, come to terms with the grieving process and spend all the time needed on expressing their emotions."

However, Ross believes society may make it difficult to allow individuals the time for a grieving process, and some may feel pressure to move on faster then they are ready to.

"It is especially difficult for most college-aged students who haven't gone through significant losses, so they have no experience with coping," Ross said. "Students may tend to immerse themselves in their busy schedule in order to avoid dealing with loss."

Hiding emotions and feelings is possibly the worst thing anyone can do when coping, Ross said.

"Not talking about how you feel can cause greater mental and physical health problems," he said. "Sleep loss, depression, anxiety and even things such as drinking more in order to provide a form of 'self-medication' are all high-risk behaviors which are extremely unhealthy."

Aside from the Loss and Transition group, the University Counseling Center also provides individual-based therapy and counseling sessions to help students cope with loss.

"We see students all the time for this issue," Ross said. "This is a very helpful form of counseling because it focuses on them individually during their time of need."

Kate Wernsman, a sophomore math major, lost a family member at age 8 or 9, but she cannot remember how she dealt with the tragic event.

"I would have no idea how to cope now if I was faced with a loss," she said. "I think it would be easiest to just keep busy and get your mind off of it. Going to seek counseling at the UCC, or getting involved with the Loss and Transition group would probably help as long as you are comfortable with expressing your feelings in front of strangers."

Wernsman said for college students there is not much time to think about it, or to cope with a loss, because they have to continue their daily activities.

"If I lost someone right now it would definitely be (hard), but I know that I would still have to go to class," she said.

Matt Parkins, a senior speech major, has never had to deal with a loss in his life, but he said that he would cope by talking with friends and family members.

"I think that support through family and friends would be the best thing for anyone to do when dealing with a loss," he said

Ross also thinks seeking support from friends and family members may be the best help when coping with a loss.

"It's important for individuals to know that it is not a weakness to go to someone for help during a time in need," he said. "It is actually a strength to be able to lean on others for support."

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