Being at university or college can be an exciting time with the promise of greater independence and the opportunity to forge new friendships and gain a new sense of who you are and what you want to do with your life. But it can also be a daunting time for many, and this can particularly be the case if you’re bereaved when you start  university or college or are bereaved during your course of study. 

Should I tell my friends about my bereavement

As soon as the subject of parents came up, and I took the chance to tell them, they were fine with it. A couple of them didn’t really know what to say, but that was fine by me, and I just reassured them that they didn’t have to say anything. This has avoided potential future awkwardness, and they’re all mature enough to realise that this doesn’t change how they should treat me. 


When you're at university or college, it’s not unusual to want to discuss your respective families, backgrounds, and things that you like and are important to you with other students.  This can be a key part of connecting with others and making friends, but you are not obliged to reveal things about yourself that you don’t feel comfortable sharing.

You may feel OK telling your new friends that you are bereaved and that it’s good to let them know from the outset. However, if you don’t want to share something personal with people you haven’t known for very long, and who may not have experienced bereavement themselves, that’s also OK; some young people say they want a fresh start where they don’t feel defined by their bereavement. Be guided by your own feelings but it can help to speak to someone you trust about your situation, such as a good friend or your university’s student welfare service, as they may be able to support you.

How can I make sure I don’t feel isolated?

Grief can feel lonely and isolating, particularly when you don’t have access to your usual support network of family and friends from home.  Although college/university can be busy, there may also be more time alone in your room if you are living in university accommodation to dwell on what has happened. If you can, try to stay connected by joining in events and finding ways to connect with others that work for you. If you feel isolated, find support locally through your university/college or other support services as well as reaching out to your existing support networks. Whatever the situation at your university/college, try to keep in touch with your family if you can so they know how you are getting on and can support you if you’re struggling to cope.

If things start to get too much, every university has a student support team who will offer guidance and counselling if a student is having a hard time. Universities want their students to have a great time, and it’s never a bad idea to go and ask for help if it’s needed, however small the problem.


Should I tell my family if I’m struggling with my grief at university/college?

Universities and colleges have a policy of not sharing information about students with their families for data protection and privacy reasons. However, some are now offering an opt-in system where students can give the university permission to share information with their family about anything that might affect their health or wellbeing. 

How can my university or college support me?

My advice to other bereaved students is to definitely use the support available. The sooner you confront it and you start talking about it, the easier it gets and the better it will be in the long run.


Most universities and colleges offer student support services although they may not offer specific bereavement support.  If you would like bereavement support, you could consider contacting a local bereavement support charity or calling Child Bereavement UK’s Helpline or using the Live Chat on the website. Peer support can also be very helpful – there may be a bereavement group at college/university that your student welfare service can tell you about, or you could think about establishing one yourself. 

What can I do if my grief is impacting on my work?

I asked if I could defer the year as the new term was due to begin two months after my dad’s death, which I didn’t feel ready for. It was extremely easy on my part, I had to sign a couple of forms and my tutor handled the rest, for which I was very grateful.


If you’re struggling with grief, your academic work, exams and assignments may feel overwhelming. It’s best to let your personal tutor or student welfare team know as soon as possible so that you can discuss options. 

How can I look after myself?

Looking after your physical health is important when you’re grieving. Even gentle exercise can help and can be a good way to connect with others if you need to. Student life can be hectic but trying to eat nutritious meals when you can and having some early nights can help with your overall wellbeing.

Some people may try to manage how they feel through alcohol or recreational drugs. Although you might feel this may distract you or block out emotional pain for a while, they can become a problem long-term and can obviously have a detrimental effect on your health and wellbeing. Your GP can help if you are worried about your use of alcohol or drugs.

How can I manage my anxiety about other members of my family while I am away?

When there has been a bereavement in the family, it’s natural to be concerned about the welfare of those at home or to feel a need to be close to them. Speak to your personal tutor or student welfare service to see if you can plan in time to visit them, if this is practical and you’d like to, around your university/college work. It’s important also to focus on yourself and your studies so you might find that speaking to family members regularly, maybe by Facetime or Zoom, or sharing short messages, videos or  photos – are things that can help you feel connected. 

What do I do if someone dies while I’m away from home at university/college?

If someone from home dies while you’re at university, it can be very difficult, and there can be additional stress if you’re far away. Speak to your personal tutor or student welfare service about taking time out if you feel you need it. It is also a good idea to let your tutor know if you need to leave university to travel to go to a funeral. Try not to leave without speaking to someone as the university may be able to help you by giving you extra time for your work or assessments or catching up on any lectures/seminars or coursework you may have missed. If you disappear suddenly and without any explanation from lectures or tuition sessions, this may also have an impact on your attendance record and people might be concerned about you.

Coping if another student dies

If another student dies this can be extremely distressing, particularly if they were on your course or were in your friendship group. Even if you did not know them well, the news that they have died can have an effect on you and if you’re already bereaved, it could cause you to revisit some of your feelings. Depending on the circumstances, how close you were to them and your own life experience, you may feel a range of emotions from shock and sadness to anger and disbelief – all these emotions are normal.

Some people find it helps to share their feelings and memories with friends. It may be that friends come together to create some way of remembering the student who has died, such as holding an event or having a special bench made on campus.

If you were close to the person who died, you might want to create something personal to remember them like creating a memory box containing pictures and things that remind you of them, writing a journal, making a piece of art or simply doing something you know your friend enjoyed.

How can Child Bereavement UK support me?

Don’t ever feel you need to manage your feelings alone. Students we have supported tell us it can also be very helpful to talk to a professional outside your friendship or family group, and if you’d like to find out about support that’s right for you, you could consider contacting student welfare or contact Child Bereavement UK via LiveChat or our Helpline.

Some people find it helpful to talk to people their age who are in a similar situation. Child Bereavement UK's Helpline will be able to tell you about any online groups for 18-25 year olds which might be available.