Graduate Program

College Student Affairs

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Semester of Degree Completion

Fall 2021

Thesis Director

Eric S. Davidson

Thesis Committee Member

Dianne Timm

Thesis Committee Member

Danessa Carter

Thesis Committee Member

Richard L. Roberts


Grief prompts college students to ask, “how do I do this?” in many ways. This phenomenological study examined the ways in which student affairs professionals supported grieving students from four universities across the United States. It was found that grieving college students faced many challenges and barriers, including academic, emotional, financial and legal, and cultural issues. Grief is an individualized process that manifests differently in each student. To ensure student success, it was found that resource referral was vital for students, and that connections between departments were imperative to make those referrals happen. This study notes that the COVID-19 pandemic had unexpected effects on grieving students’ ability to receive the help and support needed. Importance of student affairs professionals’ self-care when working with grieving students is also noted. For student affairs professionals to improve, this study calls for student affairs professionals to seek out additional trainings specific to grief. Additionally, it is recommended that universities institute bereavement protocols for their institution. Continued research on the topic is warranted and recommended.