College Students – What to Do After a Family Member’s Passing

The hardest thing a college student will every go through is the death of a family member, especially immediate family members.  Once you hear the news, you ask yourself what do I do now? Do I drop out of school, take a semester off? Or do I stick it out and hope I pass my classes?  These are not the types of questions you want to think about during a time as difficult as a family member’s passing, but it’s important that you do.

I can tell you from experience that it is possible to get through it and continue with your education.  You shouldn’t give up, but instead use your education as a way to keep your mind off of what’s going on in your life.  When my mother passed during my second year of college, I did consider dropping out, but realized that overall it would be a bad idea.  So, I set out to catch up with my schooling after I had taken three weeks off.  For those college students that don’t know how to continue the semester after a family member has passed, I have included some helpful tips.  Just don’t give up and keep on going!

  1. Talk to the Right College Officials:  The best thing for you to do is talk to a college official that specifically works for the well-being of the students.  When I needed to take three weeks off of school to go through my mother’s belongings, I went to the student development center at Woodbury University.  This staff member helped me out by contacting my professors and gave me the paperwork I needed to fill out.
  2. Fill Out the Necessary Paperwork: If you feel you need to take some time off there is paperwork that you must fill out.  The process is different for every school so be sure to find out what is required from your school.  As for me, I had to make a request for a leave of absence and provide the appropriate paperwork to prove my mother’s passing, which meant I had to bring in my mother’s death certificate.  This may seem wrong, but is quite necessary for both you and the school.  It protects the school and enables them to help you during this difficult period.
  3. Talk to Your Professors: While the staff member you spoke with will contact your professors, you should still take the time to contact them yourself.  Tell them about the circumstances and ask if they can provide you with class materials that will be covered during your time off.  This will show them that you are still thinking about your education, but need some time to deal with family matters.
  4. Get Help: There may come a point when you need to ask for help to catch up with any work you missed.  I decided to use the Academic Peer Mentor program, at Woodbury University, to help me catch up and manage my time after I had returned to school.   Take advantage of programs that your school may offer to help students with their school work.
  5. Talk to Someone: Another thing that my school offered was counseling.  Honestly, I am the type of person that hates taking to people I don’t know about my issues.  But I decided that going to counseling, on campus, might help me cope with the loss of my mother and focus on my school work at the same time.  It actually did help!  I was able to talk to someone who would listen to  me about whatever.  You don’t necessarily have to talk to a counselor, but talking to someone about how your feeling will help the grieving process.

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One thought on “College Students – What to Do After a Family Member’s Passing

  1. futuredoll April 20, 2012 at 11:01 am Reply

    Great article-I did not know of the resources for students-you have helped bring an awareness to a hard situation. Students also have to remember that their professors are parents or at least have parents, and understand the brevity of the situation.


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