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UCS to Host ‘Coping With Collective Loss’ Sessions Following Multiple Student Deaths

In response to the four deaths of current and former students that have occurred since March, University Counseling Services (UCS) will be hosting a series of “Coping with Collective Loss” meetings, beginning this week. The first of the drop-in lunchtime conversations will be at noon on Tuesday in the Gasson 001 counseling center. 

The meetings are designed to provide students a place to talk about their feelings in response to the deaths—so that nobody feels as though they have to keep the deaths a secret or that they are experiencing emotions that they shouldn’t be, according to Emily Kates, a senior staff psychologist for UCS. 

“For many years, [BC hasn’t] actually experienced that much student death. But in the last six months … we’ve had a number pretty close together,” Kates said. “Death is destabilizing and difficult at any time. But I think, especially when it’s somebody young, and when the death is unexpected, it’s even more destabilizing.”

Just being in a community where death has occurred can have an impact on students, even if they didn’t personally know the people who have died, Kates said.

“We at the counseling center just really wanted to make sure that students knew that if they were having any kind of reactions—if they were feeling sad or angry, or maybe even not sure exactly what they were feeling—that that is a normal response to loss and grief,” she said.  

The intention is for the meetings to feature small, intimate group discussions, although the exact structure of the meetings will be determined by the number of people who attend.

UCS therapists will share some information about individual and collective responses to death, but most of the time will be left for students to talk about the feelings they are experiencing, with the therapists there to facilitate the conversations and ensure that the students feel safe and comfortable.

“Even though it’s being held at the counseling center, it’s not counseling,” Kates said. “People don’t have to check in, we’re not keeping a list of everybody that comes. It’s really just meant to be that we’re providing a space for students who want to talk about these things.”

Lunch will be provided, and the meetings will last an hour and a half, but students can come late or leave early if need be.

“It doesn’t have to be that you knew any of these students personally,” Kates said. “Just having a reaction to hearing about them is fine, and you can come and participate.” 

There will be three more “Coping with Collective Loss” meetings over the course of September: They will take place at noon on Sept. 11, 19, and 27—a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, respectively. 

“We were just trying to figure out what would maximize the opportunity for people to come,” Kates said. “We were hoping that by making it at noon, on four different days, if you wanted to come you could come to at least one, although I’m sure there are people who still won’t won’t be able to, which I’m sorry about.” 

Students are welcome to come to one meeting or all four if they’d like, Kates said.  

“We can just kind of talk about these things that are really hard and difficult—and that talking about them together makes it more manageable,” Kates said. “It’s easier to heal through community. It’s a lot harder when you’re by yourself.”

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor

September 2, 2019