Understanding Students’ Experiences of Bereavement: An IPA Study
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Bereavement is a natural and inevitable part of life. It is also one of the most stressful events we experience. Research on grief reactions and coping is abundant, but studies on the specific experiences of university students is sorely lacking. As many as one in three students are within two years of experiencing bereavement. This group has been found to have an increased risk of developing a series of psychiatric disorders, drop out of university and perform worse in their career. In other words, student bereavement is a matter that should be taken seriously. Due to the limited amount of research in the area the current study aimed to gain a better understanding of what it is like to suffer bereavement in a socially and academically demanding time. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to interpret the first-hand accounts of six bereaved university students. These individuals experienced social pressure, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and confusing emotions of anger and guilt. They showed reluctance towards seeking professional help despite struggling mentally and inability to function normally. Recommendations for further research include studies on students’ perceptions of grief and attitudes towards professional support.