Loyola University Maryland

Counseling Center

Helping Students with Illness or Loss

Most of us will at some point encounter a student coping with a personal or family illness, or facing the death of a loved one. Here are some suggestions for supporting those students.

  • Say Something—While we often worry about saying the “wrong” thing, it is most important is to convey that you care and can listen. A few remarks you might find helpful for getting started: 
    • “I’m so sorry to hear about your father. Has he been ill for long?” 
    • “I don’t know what to say, but I can imagine this must be difficult for you.”
  • What Not to Say—Avoid remarks like: 
    • “Don’t cry; try to control yourself.”
    • “I know exactly what you’re going through.”
    • “Don’t worry. It’s probably for the best.”
  • Listen—Listening allows the student facing loss to express their feelings to someone who cares and be validated. Your acknowledgement of their situation, and your calm listening will be more helpful than you might think.  
  • Ask a Few Questions—People facing a loss usually have a strong desire to talk about their loved one—even if not at great length. Your questions might be general (e.g., “Tell me more about it”) or more specific (e.g., “How did you find out?”)—anything that allows the person to start talking. 
  • Check Back In—While you don’t want to impose or seem to be hovering, you do want to convey that you care and are available. You might check back later with something like: 
    • “What’s it like for you these days? How are you coping?”
    • "How are you doing? Are you talking to anyone?"
  • Consider Referral to the Counseling Center 

It is also important to connect student with appropriate campus partners. Consider the ways these resources can be helpful:

  • Campus Ministry can reach out to students to offer both spiritual and personal support. A Campus Ministry staff member will try to meet with the student personally.  Every student will be invited to solicit prayers and alert the Loyola community about a death in their immediate family through a “We Remember” e-mail.  A Campus Ministry staff member will try to attend funeral services of student’s immediate family, if possible.
  • Academic Advising and Support can notify faculty and send an e-mail to the student as appropriate. Class Deans will work to help students talk to their professors about making up missed work, and help put academic supports in place as needed.
  • The Counseling Center offers personal support and can help students explore all of the ways illness or loss might be impacting them. A counselor can also explain how being connected to others can be an important part of functioning during difficult times.

Other Offices That Might be Contacted

Generally, contacts with the following offices will be bridged by Academic Advising & support, Campus Ministry, or the Counseling Center.

  1. The Office of Student Life 
  2. Student Support and Wellness Promotion 
  3. Office of the Vice President for Student Development 
  4. Student Activities 
  5. Office of Student Engagement 
  6. ALANA Services 
  7. Women's Center

Considering Resources to Address Racial Injustice, Antiracism, & Social Justice

Recent climate surveys at Loyola highlight patterns of exclusionary experiences had by students on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and religion. From the perspective of mental health, our community members who experience offensive and discriminatory conduct are more likely to feel ignored or excluded, isolated or left out, and intimidated or bullied. Students reported a range of emotions in response to these experiences such as humiliation, anger, sadness, distress, or confusion. 

As faculty and staff, there is value in considering the ways we can challenge systemic forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and classism that impact students experience and the campus community more broadly. Please consider these resources to share with students or increase your own awareness about the impact of discrimination, understanding privilege, engaging in allyship, and having courageous conversations about these dynamics in the classroom.