Supporting a bereaved student at college or university

At Child Bereavement UK, we support young people up to the age of 25 when they are facing bereavement.

Everyone grieves in their own way

Grief is normal and bereaved students will vary enormously in the type of grief they experience.  It is important for individuals to grieve in their own way; some students will want to talk while others will bottle up all their emotions. Bereaved students will feel supported if their grief is acknowledged and they have options on how to manage their emotions.  Tutors, supervisors and welfare support teams are well-placed to offer support and identify vulnerable students or those needing additional help. 

Signposting to in-house support options or to local/national organisations may be useful but it is important to follow up with the student to make sure they feel supported by familiar adults.


We know that bereaved young people find change difficult, so transition to further education will be an even greater challenge for them and they may be particularly vulnerable in their first term.  

Being away from home

Bereaved students living away from home may feel isolated and alone.  They may be concerned for the welfare of those left behind at home or simply feel that they need to be with family or close friends while they grieve.  These students can feel torn between their studies and their sense of duty to their family.  Help them by allowing planned absences and offer opportunities to catch up on work they may have missed.

Impact on social relationships

Grieving can affect a student's relationships with others.  It can be difficult for other young people to understand the emotions of grief and a bereaved student can feel isolated and alone.  The normal feelings of grief such as anger, deep sadness and anxiety are not always understood by others. Bereaved students can benefit from being in touch with others who are also bereaved as they feel less alone.

Academic pressures

It can be difficult to concentrate and focus when grieving and this can affect a bereaved student's progress.  Other bereaved students may strive for academic excellence and will push themselves very hard and focus solely on their studies to ensure success.  Identifying these behaviours and offering some flexibility will help a bereaved student to feel supported.

Secondary losses

In addition to the bereavement, there may be additional losses and changes in a student's life which can add to the impact of the death. 

Financial - If the person who died was helping with the cost of studies then this can have a big impact on a bereaved student.  The young person may have additional costs such as travelling, funeral expenses, family responsibilities and so on.

Home and family - There may be changes within the home and/or family which can be unsettling and lead to a bereaved student feeling out of control.

Friends - Some young people find it difficult to talk about death and bereavement or they may not know how to react to a bereaved peer.  Alternatively, bereaved young people can isolate themselves from their friends if they feel unable to manage overwhelming feelings.  

Beliefs and security - A bereaved student may question their own beliefs and may begin to feel insecure and anxious about the future.  This can have an impact on their focus and aspirations for the future.

Trust - Bereaved students can feel a sense of injustice and uncertainty.  They can become reluctant to rely on anyone else which puts them under added pressure.  Being there for them and checking in regularly will help them to feel supported.