Grief isn’t about numbers or facts; it’s about people. But sometimes the numbers can make us see that we’re not alone. And sometimes the facts can shed light on the magnitude and impact of college student bereavement.

  • Between 35% and 48% of college students have lost a family member or close friend within the last two years. Between 22% and 30% of college students have lost a family member or close friend within the last year (Balk, 1997; Wrenn, 1999; Balk, Walker & Baker, 2010).
  • 18.4 million students were enrolled in American colleges in 2009 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). That equates to more than 4.5 million college students who are grieving.
  • 8.6% of college students’ academic performances have been affected by the death of a family member or close friend within the last year (Servaty-Seib & Hamilton, 2006).
  • Research shows that a student’s GPA significantly decreases during the semester of loss, providing empirical support for the assertion that bereaved students are at risk for declined academic performance (Servaty-Seib, 2006).
  • For 10% to 15% of the bereaved, a debilitating and prolonged form of grief can pose severe long-term risks for psychological and physical health (Ott, 2003; Prigerson & Maciejewski, 2006).


Grieving individuals are not working to return to normal; they are working toward establishing a new normal.
Heather Servaty-Seib, PhD & Deborah J. Taub, PhD
Authors, Training Faculty Members and Resident Assistants to Respond to Bereaved Students

  • While counseling has been shown to have a positive impact on the retention rates of all college students, only 10% of college students seek counseling services. (Bishop & Brenneman, 1986; Gallagher, 2004, 2010).
  • Students are not likely to complain to physicians about grief but instead about symptoms like insomnia, lack of motivation and an inability to concentrate (Janowiak, Mei-tal, & Drapkin, 1995).
  • Today’s college students are 40% lower in empathy than their counterparts 20 or 30 years ago (Konrath, O’Brien, & Hsing, 2010).
  • Studies indicate that bereaved individuals who receive adequate support experience lower levels (both in intensity and incidence) of anxiety or depression, fewer psychosomatic and autonomic symptoms, and decreased use of alcohol, tobacco, and tranquilizers (Parkes, 1975, 1979, 1981).
  • Research shows that group work is one of the most effective approaches to helping the bereaved (Harvey & Miller, 2000; Price, Dinas, Dunn & Winterowd, 1995; Shapiro, 1994; Worden, 1991; Zimpfer, 1991).
  • Loss support groups allow people to share common problems and provide mutual aid, thus helping the bereaved to develop a community and new social support systems (Janowiak, Mei-Tal, & Drapkin, 1995; Price, Dinas, Dunn & Winterowd, 1995; Zimpfer, 1991).
  • Benefits from support group involvement have been found to include improved emotional, mental, and physical stability during and after participation (McCallum, Piper & Morin, 1993; Thuen, 1995; Zimpfer, 1991, Yalom & Vinogradov, 1988).

If you do not have a Campus Chapter on your college campus, consider sharing your story on the “We Get it” Supportive Blog and reading other students’ stories of grieving during college, Actively Moving Forward, and supporting one another.