Opinion | University grief resources are essential — the pandemic means we need them even more

The high deaths due to COVID-19 make it timely for the university to start offering more ways to help people suffering from the many hardships of loss.



The University Counseling Services office is seen in the Old Capital Mall on Monday, February 17, 2020.

Ally Pronina, Opinions Columnist

The pain of grief demands to be felt. Recently, the U.S. surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 deaths which means that hundreds of thousands of families are grieving the loss of a loved one.

University of Iowa students experiencing grief can go to UI Counseling Services. However, there is no specific program aimed at helping people who are grieving. The rapid increase in deaths because of COVID-19 is a signal to the university that it and other universities will need to do more to help students who have lost loved ones.

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Before reaching acceptance, people going through grief will withdraw from social relationships, become angry with themselves, and try to make deals and promises to make the pain go away.

Complicated grief results when months have passed after the death and the pain has not disappeared. Prolonged grief can trigger anxiety attacks and depressive episodes. It is a serious enough emotion to go through for the UI to offer resources for any students who need it.

For example, the university can dedicate grief counselors for students. Grief counseling can help people accept the loss has really happened, work through the pain of the loss, and maintain a connection with the deceased person while still moving on with life. There is an individual therapy option, but that is not enough. Students experiencing a loss need to connect with others going through the same thing and grief counselors who are trained to provide therapy.

The Iowa City Hospice offers specific grieving services, such as services for people who have lost a partner or spouse. This is an example of a service the UI can provide to its faculty and students. The UI Counseling Services can also help students who are grieving by offering sessions to students where they talk about grief and what it looks like.

These sessions would hopefully encourage students to start talking about grief, either with a loved one of a professional. Talking about death helps mourners confront and deal with their feelings — such as anger. This is another reason why it is important for students who need it to have access to professionals to talk to about loss.

Isolating and feeling like nobody understands what you are going through is one of the most dangerous things one can do when in grief. Sessions about grief can help students understand the emotion better. If we know someone going through grief, we will better understand it and can help them not feel as alone.

Not having access to resources can exacerbate the suffering and loneliness people who have experienced loss feel. Losing a loved one is already hard enough without feeling like you have nobody to process it with.

The UI will need to step up to relieve one of the greatest pains anyone can experience and offer resources for more students who are grieving. The increase in deaths during the pandemic makes grief resources essential.

A year from now, we will hopefully have healed — at least a little bit — from the pandemic. But people who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 will still feel some pain, loss, and emptiness. We can all do our part in helping them heal. No matter how dark the world gets, we must always find a way to help those who are hurting.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.