Dealing with death of a student, faculty and staff member: managing grief

4 September 2018

Joy Webb | Avi Petrucci

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    Dealing with grief in a situation when a student, faculty or staff member passes away is never easy, especially since UCCS’ community is smaller and more intimate campus.

    Death is a part of life that everyone must confront, but it’s important that all members of UCCS are able to cope with the sorrow and after effect of these events when they do occur. It’s hard to move on and continue with everyday life when a death directly affects you, but life doesn’t stop for anyone.

    Last year, a freshmen student, Zachary Schlagel, passed away in a hit and run incident that shook the campus community and made it hard for many students, faculty and staff members to continue on with their regular schedule, when many of these people knew him personally.

    Recently, a non-traditional senior, Don Way, who was set to graduate this semester and a veteran of the United States Marine Corp, passed away. Similarly to Schlagel’s passing, Way’s death has harshly impacted the campus community and reminded them how precious life is.

    Way had a son who is a freshman mechanical engineering student. Mabon had to grieve the loss of his father during the first week of the fall semester.

    It is important that in these circumstances we are a supportive community that provides support and options for students, faculty and staff to grieve.

    The UCCS Wellness Center, located inside the Gallogly Recreation and Wellness Center,  is an on-campus resource that provides assistance in these times of need. The first four counseling visits are free of charge, and all other visits are only $15. For some people, talking to a counselor can be less stressful as they are outside of the situation and can be easier to open up to.

    You can make an appointment at the Wellness Center by logging into the Wellness Center portal or by calling (719) 255-4444. They are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    For individuals who aren’t interested in talking to a counselor, friends, family and UCCS staff members can be a great resource. In further detail, friends, family or trusted staff can often make individuals feel more comfortable, familiar and safe, which can encourage them to share thoughts and feelings. reports that talking to someone can help sort through feelings, put things in perspective and release tension.  

    Some researchers and psychologists even recommend running through your thoughts and feelings by yourself. According to Michael J. Russ from, talking to yourself can change your thinking.  

    It is important that students utilize resources like these, especially when they are experiencing a traumatic life event, such as these mentioned deaths.

    Although it can be hard to do when dealing with the loss of a loved one, it is vital to one’s health that they are able to move on. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) research shows that moving on can be “the catalyst for a renewed sense of meaning that offers purpose and direction to life.” The APA suggests that talking about the death of your loved one, accepting your feelings, taking care of yourself and family, reaching out to others and celebrating the life of your loved one can help you come to terms with the loss and slowly move forward in life.

    Coping with grief can be a difficult process, but utilizing your resources, and the support from the UCCS campus community can help lessen distress.

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