Alan Pederson, the Executive Director of The Compassionate Friends, spoke with Dr. David Fajgenbaum about his work with college students and how they handle grief. The two connected at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference, which Dr. Fajgenbaum was attending in order to share his research and findings. Losing a loved one at any age is difficult, but having that happen in your college years is especially difficult. Many students are away from home for the first time and many of their current relationships are too new to rely on for support. You’re also supposed to be having the best years of your life, so it can feel like “wrong timing” to talk about terminal illnesses or losses.
Even more challenging, all students feel alone from time to time. Students might feel like they should be able to handle things on their own. However, organizations, clubs, and groups on campus can be of great help. Dr. Fajgenbaum has established service groups at a few campuses across the country, helping students to get involved in community service—often in memory of a loved one.
Service with a Purpose
Some examples include bootcamps to beat cancer, which is what Dr. Fajgenbaum did for his own mother who passed away while he was in college. Knowing you’re not alone, and surrounding yourself with peers who understand what you’re going through, can be paramount to the healing process in college. It can also make the difference between staying in a program and taking a sometimes permanent leave.
It also gives friends a way to support someone who’s grieving, since it can be difficult to figure out how at that age. Find out more about Students of AMF today.