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Supporting Grieving College Students During their Transition to Adulthood Kristen Stefureac, MSW AMF Program Advisor National Students of AMF I honestly.

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Presentation on theme: "Supporting Grieving College Students During their Transition to Adulthood Kristen Stefureac, MSW AMF Program Advisor National Students of AMF I honestly."— Presentation transcript:

1 Supporting Grieving College Students During their Transition to Adulthood Kristen Stefureac, MSW AMF Program Advisor National Students of AMF I honestly believe that it’s the main reason I was able to stay at Georgetown (which is what my dad wants) rather than moving home. Julie, 2009, Georgetown

2 Overview College Student Grief – Background and Research Introduction to AMF Overview of National Students of AMF Supporting Grieving College Students

3 Grief and the Transition to Adulthood Although a growing number of programs are dedicated to supporting children who are grieving, most programs for children end at age 18. What happens to young people who are grieving? I felt so alone and isolated in my grief. I was on a campus surrounded by 20,000 other students who I was sure couldn’t begin to grasp what I was dealing with. Danielle, 2011, University of Delaware

4 College Student Grief 22-30% of college students are in the first year of grieving the death of a family member or close friend 35-48% are within the first 2 years (Balk, 2001; Balk, 2008).

5 Unique issues on Campus Already coping with multiple life transitions and stressors: Geographically distant from their usual support systems Competing demand for jobs and making career choices Forging one’s autonomy Coping with academic pressures, and Maintaining a “ carefree ” social life. While bereaved students find talking about the death helpful, few non-bereaved peers are comfortable with or willing to talk with the bereaved about death

6 Impact Lack of support and isolation can have a profound negative impact on the bereaved academically, developmentally, occupationally, and socially during the college years (Balk & Vesta, 1998) Bereaved students have reported difficulties with concentrating and studying (Balk & Vesta, 1998; Silverman, 1987) Varying data regarding GPA and negative academic standing (i.e., probation, dropped, withdrawn) (Servaty- Seib & Hamilton, 2006) I lost my best friend just two days before I had to return to WOU for finals, which is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Nawwal, 2012, Western Oregon University

7 Impact on health Greater risk of many unique problems, including: enduring depression, social isolation/ withdrawal, sleep disturbances, risky behaviors, severe and ongoing somatic complaints, and an increased vulnerability for disease and eating disorders Even in milder forms, a preoccupation with death can disrupt emotional and social functioning Sadness, anger, guilt, increased/decreased empathy for others, less trust for others Intrusive thoughts, lowered personal life expectancy I lost the person that gave me life; her life gave my life purpose, but it also resulted in great pain… I struggled with my grief, which affected both my academic and social progress. Tiffany, 2011, NC State University

8 Interventions on campus Health risks and psychological problems can be mollified or avoided if proper support and help is made available to the bereaved Although most college campuses provide counseling services, data shows that these are often underutilized (National Survey of Counseling Directors, 2011) College students report that they prefer student-led bereavement efforts and discussing loss with their peers (Balk, 1997; Fajgenbaum, Chesson, Lanzi, 2012). Individuals who use multiple coping strategies are able to more effectively cope with transitions. The college environment holds great potential for providing more effective support to bereaved students The challenges and problems that we deal with as students with ailing loved ones are unique and impossibly difficult, but the support of groups such as AMF make them bearable. Tiffany, 2010, Upenn Law School


10 Recent Research “Building a Network of Grief Support on College Campuses: A National Grassroots Initiative,” Journal of College Student Psychotherapy, David Fajgenbaum, Benjamin Chesson, Robin Lanzi Found that university administrators underestimated prevalence of bereavement Administrators reported that bereaved students needed support from friends more than they did from counselors; however, only one institution has an established system in place to provide peer support Administrators believed that programs that raise awareness and educate campus members about student bereavement are the most important new programs for universities to offer

11 Call for change Servaty Seib & Hamilton (2006) and Balk (2001) have called for the development of interventions to support this population Combined this identified need with David’s personal experience with bereavement during college Mother diagnosed with brain cancer 2 weeks before freshman year Very few resources beyond counseling I feel alone, helpless and guilty for being away from home. David, 2007, Georgetown University

12 2008 Today Show

13 Overview of National Students of AMF Began as a support group on Georgetown’s campus Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in May 2006 Mission: to support and empower college students grieving the illness or death of a loved one. It is not all about sadness… it is about cherishing the life you had with your lost loved ones. Loreal, 2012, UGA

14 Programs of National Students of AMF AMF campus chapters on college campuses nationwide, which include peer-led support and service groups. Active on 64 college campuses. Serve as a resource for grieving college students nationwide, Raise awareness about the needs of grieving college students, and Host national grief support programs and events, like the National Conference on College Student Grief and National College Student Grief Awareness Week.

15 Overview of Campus Chapters Student-led, faculty/staff advised, collaborative, community-based approach that brings together peer-grief support, empowering service activities, faculty mentoring, and university resources. Support group where bereaved students can relate to peers also facing the unique challenges of grief during their college years Service group through which the entire campus community can volunteer and raise awareness and funds for causes important to chapter members. Mentoring program for faculty and staff to connect with a member of the support group Every school should have a chapter, and every student should know about it. Tiffany, 2009, UPenn

16 Support Group Meet every other week for a peer-lead, open- discussion open to ALL grieving college students Students can share their thoughts, feelings and experiences, NOT advice. Student training through online resources, AMF advising, monthly calls, and the National Conference It has been so empowering to be part of a group where they know exactly how I feel even before I’ve told them my story because they’ve all been there, and where they just want to share my experience with me. Lee, 2013, Georgia Southern

17 Service Group Open to the entire campus community Allows students to “ fight back ” against or champion those causes that have taken their loved ones. Begins a dialogue on campus about the issues of bereaved college students. Pioneering research on the benefits of service as a therapeutic tool for healing. AMF attended the Walk to D’Feet ALS in DC. I felt like I could actually do something besides feel sad and helpless about my dad’s illness. We raised money for the walk and many of my friends and other members of AMF joined me. Julie, 2013, GW

18 Connecting on Campus

19 Ways to Connect with AMF University professors and staff : Reach out to National Students of AMF: We will work with you to find the best strategies for raising awareness for AMF on your campus. Share with your students about National Students of AMF If a chapter begins, consider being Faculty Advisor

20 Ways to Connect with AMF Community Bereavement Counselors and Staff Connect with AMF and we will work with you to identify the colleges in your If AMF chapters exist close to you, we will connect you. If there are no AMF chapters nearby, we will discuss ways that you might partner with a local college to attract a student leader.

21 Ways to Connect with AMF Students: Be there for one another during times of grief Share with other students about AMF ( ) Encourage your peers to channel their energy towards positive outlets Attend the National Conference on College Student Grief on July 26-28 Consider starting up a chapter of Students of AMF on your campus

22 Ways to Connect ALL: Consider becoming a part of the National Students of AMF Leadership Team (Board of Mental Health Professionals, ADEC-liaison, Hospice-Liaison, Children’s Bereavement Center-liaison, consistent volunteer position, event-only volunteer position) Serve as a “ Voice in the Community ” during our awareness campaigns Look into Bereavement Leave Policy (Heather Servaty-Seib) on your campus

23 References Balk, D. E. (2001). College student bereavement, scholarship, and the university: A call for university engagement. Death Studies, 25, 67-84. Balk, D. E. (2008). The 22-30% Prevalence Rate in College Student Bereavement: “So What?” In H. L. Servaty-Seib & D. J. Taub (Eds.), Assisting Bereaved College Students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Jossey-Bass. Balk, D. E. & Vesta, L. C. (1998). Psychological development during four years of bereavement: A longitudinal case study. Death Studies, 22, 23-41. Fajgenbaum, D. C. (2007). College Student Bereavement: University Responses, Programs and Policies, and Recommendations for Improvement. Senior Thesis Submission. To be submitted for publication. Servaty-Seib, H. L. & Hamilton, L. A. (2006). Educational performance and persistence of bereaved college students. Journal of College Student Development, 47, 225-234. Silverman, P. R. (1987). “The impact of parental death on college-age women. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 10, 387-404.

24 Thank you!

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