Supporting students who have experienced bereavement

This section includes information on supporting a student who may have experienced a bereavement before coming to university or during their studies.  

Supporting a bereaved student

Coping with the loss of a parent, child, friend or a special person can be exceptionally difficult and traumatic.  It can have a signficiant impact on wellbeing as well as their studies and the support each student needs can be very different.  Having a conversation with someone who has been bereaved can be daunting.  There may be worry about ‘saying the wrong thing’, ‘making things worse’ or ‘not knowing what to say’.  These are all normal worries and feelings .

How you can help

  • Saying ‘I’m so sorry..I don’t know what to say’ – is ok, your role isn’t to ‘make things better’ or ‘stop them feeling sad’.  Recognising what has happened is important.
  • Listen to what the student wants to tell you.  Ask them what would help, reassure you can help support them in their studies and accessing support. This doesnt mean you have to deal with everything yourself, there is a lot of support you can refer them to, hearing froma  student what they feel they need is important.
  • Consider what support is needed for their studies, this could be temporary leave, a few weeks break or mitigating circumstances (especially if they have assessments or exams).  Or they may be ok to carry continue – with the knowlede that they can talk through any changes if they need them.  See here for the academic support pages
  • Emotional support is available from the Student Counselling and Wellbeing team, this could be a same day drop or a series of appointments.  If this would be beneficial, share the self referral Counselling and Wellbeing hub link with them. 
  • Depending on the nature of the bereavement, there are a lot of external charities that can also offer support.  It is important not to overload with information and this can make accessing support harder.  Leeds Bereavement Forum has a directory of all the services in Leeds and across the UK that can support with different bereavement needs.
  • The Bereavement Advice Centre can help with the practical aspects of dealing with a death