Rainy day on campus grief and loss header image

Understanding grief and loss

Gain an understanding of various experiences of grief and loss. Build skills and find support for yourself and others.

grief is a non-linear process and looks different for everyone. Image of squiggles.

The grief response

Grief responses and timelines vary. Responses can be emotional or not at all. Grief can elicit feelings such as fatigue, or even an intellectual response, such as advocacy. 

The grief response can affect the way one engages and copes. This can include changes to decision making, time management, attention and mood regulation. 

Experiencing grief in post-secondary 

Grieving in university is a common experience, especially for students. A common loss for students can be that of a grandparent or a fellow student. These losses can sometimes be deemed by others as less important than a death of a parent or sibling. This can lead to disenfranchisement for the griever. It is important to not minimize grief of any form. 

Birds eye shot of students at University of Calgary convocation.

Grief is a complex, whole-person experience. Our bodies and minds have different ways of expressing that. There is not a right, single reliable procedure or process for grieving. That is where laughter, anger, numbness, even motivation are all things that can occur in response to grief, and they don’t have a particular timeline.

Keeta Gladue, MSW'22

How can I support someone grieving?

When someone is grieving, there is nothing to resolve or fix. In many cases, those experiencing grief and loss need someone who is open, patient, and present. Someone who is willing to listen, without judgement. If you're supporting a loved one, peer, or other person you hold a relationship with, consider:

  • Saying something simple e.g. I'm sorry for your loss, I'm here for you
  • Actively listening when someone is sharing
  • Consider offering practical support, depending on the relationship you have with that person: 
    • Be specific, by asking when you can support and providing a suggestion of what you can support with, such as cooking a meal, running an errand, or doing a helpful chore


What should I avoid when supporting someone grieving?*

Sometimes a message of support can be read differently than we intend it to. When supporting someone who is grieving try to avoid the following:

  • Setting out to solve or fix someone’s grief 

  • Minimizing the grief 

  • Using platitudes (e.g. They're in a better place now)  

  • Conveying the expectation for someone to get over it 

  • Expressing frustration over someone’s grief 

*Just like there is no right way to grieve, there is no right way to support someone in their grief. Give yourself permission to not say the perfect thing. Showing up imperfectly is better than not showing up at all.

Resources to support grief

Supports through UCalgary


  • Student Wellness Services - book a counselling appointment to receive support
  • Grief Gang Club - this student club aims to normalize conversations around grief, decrease the isolation that grief can bring, as well as create a strong community and safe space for those grieving


For students, faculty and staff

  • Faith and Spirituality Centre - receive spiritual support from a Faith Representative or a Chaplain
  • The Care Corner - a peer group that organizes events and activities for those experiencing grief and loss while learning or working in post-secondary

Local and online resources

I think grief can tell us something about someone or something we care for. Honouring what we care for and what others care for, looking out for each other, holding space for grief, not treating it like it’s a problem, are all dignifying ways of responding.

Julie Stewart, MSW'19

This page was developed on behalf of the Campus Mental Health Strategy. Learn more about the impetus of these resources. Read story