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Recognizing Loss and Grief

The first thing many people think when they hear “loss” is death. But there are many types of loss. You may have felt feelings of loss when your student moved away from home. Or your student might be experiencing feelings of loss now. They probably had an idea of what college would be like, unmarred by masks and social distancing. We expect to experience grief when a loved one dies, but many types of loss produce grief. Simply put, grief is the emotional reaction of loss marked by sorrow and/or distress. Grief can disrupt our sense of order and lead to feeling like life is out of control or meaningless. 

We’ve realized that many Boise State students don’t recognize what they’re feeling is grief when they’re experiencing feelings of loss like homesickness, a relationship breakup or loss of opportunities they wanted to explore.

If your student is experiencing grief, they may function better within an already established support system, like you or extended family members. Reactions to loss may include: 

  • Physical reactions like headaches, fatigue or exhaustion, changes in appetite, sleep disturbance
  • Cognitive reactions like difficulties concentrating, solving problems, preoccupation with the event
  • Emotional reactions like guilt, anger, irritability, moodiness, feeling helpless, intrusive thoughts, sense of hopelessness

But grief can be complicated and may require some type of intervention. If your student, or one of their friends, is experiencing grief, here are some helpful actions to practice: 

  • Listen carefully. This can help your student gain an understanding of their feelings and clarify options for dealing with them. 
  • Encourage your student to continue to connect with you, other family members and friends. Even if it means taking time away from classes or the university.
  • Don’t minimize the loss or suggest your student must “just move forward.”
  • Be aware that your student may be longing to be at home.
  • Don’t feel pressure to “say the right thing” or break silence. Your supportive and caring presence can be comforting.
  • Encourage your student to talk with someone about their feelings, fears, and uncertainties.

Boise State is committed to creating a safe and healthy learning and living environment for your student. An important step in fulfilling that commitment is attending to their mental health needs. Here are resources we’ve created to support you and your student. 

  • Counseling Services at
  • Grief resources at 
  • Boise State’s student absent policy at

If your student is still struggling after trying these resources, you can submit a report to our CARE team. Learn more about when and how to submit a CARE report at