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Oklahoma State University

Grief Counseling


Emergency Contacts
  • 911
  • Call SAM, 1-855-225-2726 (Student Assistance by Mercy)
  • OSU Police, 405-744-6523
  • Wings of Hope Crisis Line, 405-624-3020
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255
  • Military OneSource (service members, veterans & families), 800-342-9647
  • Oklahoma Mental Health & Substance Abuse Crisis Line, 800-566-1343

Eligibility and Cost

Students coping with the death of a loved one are eligible for individual counseling at no cost. All OSU students are eligible to receive four counseling sessions at no cost each academic year. For students coping with grief, funds from the Remember the Ten Run reimburse the Student Counseling Center $10 for sessions 5-12.

Grief 101

The death of a loved one is one of the most distressing and life changing events a person can experience. Hearing the news that a loved one has died is often met with shock and disbelief. "How can this be?" "Surely there is a mistake." It takes time for a person to come to terms with the facts and realize their loved one is gone. Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes days and sometimes it takes weeks.

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., internationally known grief educator, author and counselor, has identified Six Reconciliation Needs for mourners, which bypasses the idea that people move through stages of grief. Stages of grief imply there is a systematic pattern of reactions to the death of a loved one. Research has not confirmed this to be true.

The six needs also bypass the idea that people “recover” from grief. The death of a loved one changes a person forever. According to Dr. Wolfelt, mourners “reconcile” the death by adapting to life without the physical presence of their loved one. The journey is never complete as we may experience “grief bursts” at significant times during our lives when we miss the person who died. This may occur at holidays, anniversary dates, birthdays or even when someone you do not know dies, but it is a reminder that your loved one is gone too. Following, are the Six Reconciliation Needs.

Need #1: Acknowledge the reality of the death

Often people need to tell and retell stories as a way to make sense of what has happened.

Need #2: Embrace the pain of the loss

It may seem easier to ignore the pain, but grief is patient and will wait for years. Dr. Wolfelt suggests “dosing” yourself with grief, meaning sometimes you face it and sometimes you avoid it.

Need #3: Remember the person who died

Share memories when you can with those who will listen. Keep linking objects visible such as photos, souvenirs and other items that remind you of your loved one.

Need #4: Develop a new self-identity

Your role as sibling, parent, friend or caretaker may change when someone dies. You may take on new roles that are unfamiliar that used to be done by the deceased. Taking on these new roles helps you confront the fact that your loved one is gone.

Need #5: Search for meaning

People often ask “Why did this happen?" “What is the purpose of life if everyone dies?" Reflecting on such questions may lead you to new spiritual concepts and a new understanding of the universe in which you live.

Need #6: Receive on-going support from others

It is natural for human beings to be connected with others. Receiving support from friends, clergy, counselors and family will help you adjust to life without your loved one.

What are common symptoms of grief?

"Am I Normal?"

Physical symptoms

Frequent tiredness, restlessness, headache, stomach problems, tightness in chest, hollow feeling in stomach, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, changes in sleep patterns.

Emotional symptoms

Sadness, anger, frequent crying, feeling helpless, feeling worthless, guilt, relief, anxiety, feeling numb or detached.

Cognitive symptoms

Difficulty concentrating, wandering aimlessly without remembering what you were doing, feeling confused, loss of interest in spending time with others

Spiritual symptoms

Questioning the meaning of life, feeling angry at God, feeling hopeless about the future

How long does it take to get over the death of a loved one?

People do not “get over” the death of a loved one. It is more descriptive to say that people “adjust” to life without their loved one. Getting over it implies the relationship is over, but with death, the relationship does not really end, it just changes. For example, my grandmother died over ten years ago and my family continues to tell stories about her keeping her memory alive within us. We maintain our relationship with her by telling stories. Anyone who really wants to get to know me must at some time learn about my relationship with my grandma.

So, "How long does it take to adjust to life after the death of a loved one?" This is like asking how high is up. It depends on many factors and the answer is “It takes as long as it takes." Some people mourn for months and some for years. The pain of losing someone close is different for each individual because no two relationships are alike.

If you would like more information about the death of a loved one or how to help someone who has experienced the death of a loved one check out these resources.


How do I help someone who is grieving?

Often we feel uncomfortable around a person who is grieving because we don’t know what to say or do. Here are some tips on appropriate ways to help.

1.  Call often. Do not expect them to have the energy to call you.

2.  Offer specific forms of help rather than asking “Is there anything I can do?” If your friend is a fellow student, you might suggest you do laundry together one night a week. You could also offer to clean, cook or go shopping for your friend.

3.  Use the name of the deceased in conversation. It is music to the ears and reminds them that their loved one is not forgotten.

4.  Avoid clichés such as “He is in a better place” or “God will not give you more than you can handle." These minimize the loss and often make the bereaved feel angry.

5.  Send a card on special occasions such as the anniversary of the death, holidays and birthdays of the deceased. This is a nice reminder that their loved one is not forgotten.

6.  Listen and be present when your friend wants to talk. You don’t have to say anything. Your presence is enough.

7.  Often people who are bereaved need to tell their story over and over again as they try to make sense out of what has happened in their life. Be willing to listen and be nonjudgmental.

8.  Encourage the bereaved to go slowly and not make major decisions in life such as moving or getting rid of objects. People do not move more quickly through grief by getting rid of things that remind them of their loved one.

9.  Allow the expression of emotions. Encourage the bereaved when they are crying with statements such as “It is good to cry” or “Crying helps let the pain out."


Helpful Links







320 Student Union
Stillwater, OK 74078
405-744-5472 phone
405-744-8380 fax

Open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Walk-in Counseling is available Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

If you are a student with an urgent need, an on-call counselor is available during regular business hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Examples of urgent needs include thoughts of harming yourself, thoughts of harming others, recent sexual assault or a recent traumatic experience. After 5 p.m. weekdays and weekends, counseling staff may be reached by contacting the OSU Police, 405-744-6523.

Students also may use Call SAM (Student Assistance by Mercy), which is a FREE 24-hour call center staffed with counselors who will assist you in getting the help you need. It’s completely confidential. 1-855-225-2SAM (2726)


Links to websites outside of OSU do not imply endorsement of products or services on those sites. University Counseling Services and Oklahoma State University are not responsible for content on non-OSU sites.