Loyola University Maryland

With Parents Online Newsletter

Coping with illness in a loved one

It’s an invisible phenomenon, affecting about 62 percent of current Loyola students: having to juggle the normal stresses of college while coping with serious illness in a loved one. Because this situation is so common, can be so difficult, and often goes unspoken, a group of Loyola administrators has been meeting regularly to try to help.

Students with an ill loved one often face difficult decisions. They might be thinking, 'Should I stay in college, or go home? Should I drop a class? Ask for an extension?' Too often, they don’t think to ask for help. So, Loyola has been developing a network to support these students and we want to make sure people know how to connect with it.

To help get the word out, a campaign focused on students coping with the illness of a loved one took place throughout October. Messages were posted around campus, in The Greyhound, and online to inform the community of the prevalence of this problem, and how students can get support. These messages described some of the feelings students might experience in this situation, such as:

  • Confusion: They might not know what their loved one really wants them to do.
  • Loneliness: It’s hard to know if anyone else is going through something like this.
  • Anger and sadness: Because their loved one is suffering.
  • Guilt: That they’re "enjoying college" while their loved one is ill. Or that they’re not calling home enough. Or that they’re calling too often.
  • Jealousy: Because other students seem so carefree.

Messages also advised students how to support someone whose loved one is ill. Advice included recognizing that students can feel isolated in their grief and fear, so it is important not to avoid them or the topic of their loved one. Students can fear that they will make their friend feel worse by raising the topic, or that they won't know what to say, so messages recommended:

  • Say something; don’t just ignore the situation.
  • Ask your friend how they’re doing.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Just sit with them.
  • Let them feel sad and scared—don’t try to "just be positive."
  • Remember to check back; don’t just ask once and then forget it.
  • Be available when you can.
  • Consider recommending other supports, like the Counseling Center.

Finally, messages made clear how students can find support on campus through a number of campus resources, including the Counseling Center (HU 150, 410-617-2273), Academic Services (MH 145, 410-617-5547), and Campus Ministry (Cohn Hall, 410-617-2768). The staff in these offices can connect students to the most appropriate people and resources, depending on the nature of their concerns.

Also, because sometimes the most helpful support for students is that of other students in similar situations, the Counseling Center has started a peer support group, called "Home Base," where students with an ill loved one can come together to share their stories, exchange advice, and discuss each other’s concerns. Students have found this kind of support from each other to be extremely helpful. In fact, it can make all the difference.


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