Coping with Loss During College: How to Avoid a Relapse

old man with head in hand desperate

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Experiencing loss in any form is never an easy thing.  Whether the loss of a pet, a job or finances, a loved one, a friendship, an aspiration or hope, the grief that results from losing something important to you can be overwhelming.  While grief is always difficult to deal with, the experience of loss can create challenging circumstances for the college student who may be in recovery from substance abuse addiction.

College Adds Pressure

College is a unique opportunity in life that allows an individual to explore new academic pursuits, responsibilities, and bloom as an individual.  Because a college student may be removed from a familiar environment and close support system, experiencing loss and grief during this time period can present with more obstacles and struggles.

lecture-hall-347316_1280Because the experience of loss often involves widespread emotions, such as anger, denial, sadness, etc. it is crucial to have a solid support system during this time.  If you are in recovery from an addiction and have a support group that you meet with regularly, use this as an opportunity to share what you are experiencing and how this is impacting your recovery.  If you do not yet have a support group for addiction recovery, look locally within your community and on campus.  Many college campuses and churches offer free support groups as resources to the community.  During this especially difficult time, having the support of other individuals is needed for accountability and encouragement.

Find People You Can Trust

team-386673_1280If you feel you are unable to participate in a support group, consider reaching out to someone you trust and can speak with about the loss you have experienced.  Internalizing your pain and keeping things to yourself will only result in destructive consequences.  While you may feel unable to speak or share about the pain you are feeling, reaching out to support will be key to protecting your recovery and avoiding a relapse.  Returning to your counselor or therapist for additional support during this time is also a helpful tool that you can utilize.  You do not need to walk through this alone.  Know that there is a community that can support you through your grief and loss.


Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are some tools or resources that were helpful to you through the grief process?  What has helped you in your recovery during challenging and difficult times?


Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 20, 2015. Published on