Cyber Grieving in College


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A research-based conference presentation that focuses on the grieving process that college students may experience and how they cope with it via social media - Featured at the ACPA 2013 Annual Convention

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  • What we already know about traditional aged-college students is that they spend a lot of time online, especially since they were “the first generation to grow up with the Internet and were the first to join social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook” (Twenge, 2013, p. 15). Consumers of the Internet are posting and liking comments in Facebook groups, favoriting tweets, networking on LinkedIn, and are continuously posting public information onto the World Wide Web. In fact Every bit of information shared online is tracked, traced and archived (Solove, 2007). Just one ‘like’ or comment posted in cyberspace can cause a ripple effect that can be easily accessed far into the future, and it is what students do online that translates into real-life, and can pose life-altering consequences after college.
  • Time spent on Facebook, playing online games, ‘facebook stalking’, RSVPing to events, commenting on content, and other related activities contribute to student engagement online in both positive and negative ways. Junco (2012) found a positive relationship between the number of tweets and over all GPA, suggesting that social media can be utilized to increase engagement and both learning and educational outcomes. --Mouse Image Source: Image Source:
  • It is estimated that 4.5 mission college students are currently grieving – We must assume they are doing so online!GPA significantly decreases during the semester of loss (Servaty-Seib, 2006).10% - 15% of the bereaved, a debilitating and prolonged form of grief can pose sever long-term risks for psychological and physical health (Ott, 2003; Prigerson $ Maciejewski, 2006). Between 35% and 48% of college students have lost a family member or close friend within the last two years.Between 22% and 30% of college students have lost a family member or close friend within the last year. (Balk, 1997; Wrenn, 1999; Balk, Walker & Baker, 2010).--Source: Grieving Resources: Funeral Directors Association -
  • Cyber Grieving in College

    1. 1. Michael M. Kocet, Ph.D., LMHC Associate Professor and Student Affairs Program Director, Department of Counselor Education, Bridgewater State University @drmichaelkocet (508) 531-2721 Christina Hale Kelly P. Burne @kelly_burne Peter M. Quinn @pmaxquinn Jeffrey Sarahs Graduate Students, Student Affairs Counseling Program Bridgewater State University
    2. 2. Learning how to meet them where they are at, one tweet at a time...
    3. 3. Every minute of the day: • 100,000 tweets are sent; • 684,478 pieces of content are shared on Facebook; • 2 million search queries are made on google; • 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube; • 47,000 apps are downloaded from the App Store; • 3,600 photos are shared on Instagram; • 571 websites are created • $272,000 is spent by consumers online (Pring, 2012). Facer and Selwyn (2010) urge educators to focus their attention and research efforts to social media networking sites, as they provide a venue for identity construction.
    4. 4. Online student engagement happens in many different ways: • transitioning or adjusting psychologically to the campus environment, • increased maturity, • meeting educational goals, • being persistent, • and developing a self-concept that is positive in nature 89% of college students use social media (Junco, 2012) 40% of first year students look to social media to find out how to get involved on-campus (Dahlstrom, deBoor, Grunwald, & Vockley, 2011; Junco, 2011a; The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, 2012): and Mastrodicasa & Metellus, 2013)
    5. 5. Oftentimes, we may get a sense of a college student experiencing grief and loss, based on what they are posting or discussing online.
    6. 6. By participating in social networking sites after experiencing a loss, college students may reduce their sense of disconnection and create valuable connections to peers and others, including the deceased. “Posting comments on another person’s profile can help deepen an association between individuals, thereby making relationships feel more intimate” (Hieftje, 2012, p.32).
    7. 7. 25-50% of college students have lost a signifcant family member or friend within the past two years (Balk, 2001 as cited in Sofka, Cupit, & Gilbert, 2012). “For college students, experiencing a loss may disrupt one’s developing sense of self and worldview, thus challenging the normative developmental process of self-discovery and identity formation.” (Hieftje, 2012)
    8. 8. Physical Effects of Bereavement Behavioral Effects of Bereavement Interpersonal Effects of Bereavement Cognitive Effects of Bereavement Emotional Effects of Bereavement Spiritual Effects of Bereavement Clinical Interventions
    9. 9. o May feel disconnected from rest of family, especially if college student was not living at home at the time of loss/death. o Struggling with feeling overly responsible for family members after a loss; may put their own needs on hold. o Vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other disorders that can be exacerbated by a loss/death.
    10. 10. What Grieving College Students Sometimes Experience (adapted from Balk, 2011) 1. College campuses are often not “grieving” friendly environments; peers, faculty, and staff don’t often know how to support grieving students. 2. Peers on campus often feel uncomfortable talking with bereaved students about their loss and may not know how to handle grieving students’ emotions. 3. Grieving students have learned to camouflage their feelings in order to maintain associations with friends. 4. Students feel alone in their grief and want the opportunity to share with others their distress, but there are few, perhaps no peers who have the emotional maturity to let people mourn in their presence.
    11. 11. I. To accept the reality of the loss (Not believing) II. To process the pain of grief (Not feeling)
    12. 12. III. To adjust to a world without the deceased: External adjustments: Living daily without the person. Internal adjustments: Who am I now? Spiritual adjustments: Reframe assumptive world. IV. To find an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life
    13. 13. Grieving involved reconstructing and restoring a personal sense of meaning and direction in life. Feelings have a function and are signals to making meaning in our lives. Bereavement causes one’s identity to be constructed and reconstructed.
    14. 14. Complicated grief reactions require more complex therapies than uncomplicated grief reactions. Adjustment disorders, major depression, substance abuse, and even PTSD are some of the common problems of complicated bereavement. Extended length of time of the symptoms. Intensity of the symptoms. Interference caused by the symptoms. Unresolved grief may appear as a complete absence of grief or mourning, an ongoing inability to experience normal grief reactions, delayed grief, conflicted grief, or chronic grief.
    15. 15. A prolonged sense of yearning to be reunited with the loved one The presence of significant functional impairment At least 5 of the following 9 symptoms at least 6 months after the loss: 1. Emotional numbness 2. Stunned, dazed or shocked feeling 3. Feeling that life is meaningless 4. Bitterness or anger over the loss 5. Mistrust of others 6. Difficulty accepting the loss 7. Avoidance of reminders of the deceased 8. Difficulty moving on with life 9. A feeling that part of oneself has died
    16. 16. The loss of a partner (within an affair) Ex spouses/partners The loss of a same-sex partner killed in war/miltary combat The loss of a pet The ending of a long-term friendship Abortions
    17. 17. Examples of Student Cyber Grieving
    18. 18. Online Condolence Books This Guest Book will remain online until 12/18/2013 courtesy of Akron Beacon Journal. Adrienne L. Ryba, 19, passed away Saturday, December 15, 2012. She was born in Akron, Ohio on June 29, 1993. Adrienne graduated with honors from Highland High School in 2011 and was attending Kent State University majoring in interior design. She was vibrant, artistic, very creative, and loved playing volleyball. Adrienne was a wonderful, loving daughter and sister. She loved and valued her many friendships and was always there to help. Adrienne plunged 50 feet to her death after falling through the roof of a decaying, abandoned warehouse where she and her boyfriend had gone to view the city's lights. Adrienne Ryba was scaling the roof of a former manufacturing plant in Akron, Ohio with her boyfriend and another pair of friends just after midnight on Saturday when the section she was on gave way. Her friends frantically called 911 and first responders forced their way into the building, but Ryba was pronounced dead at the scene after multiple blunt force traumas from the fall. Lt. Rick Edwards from Akron police said it appeared that the group had been drinking alcohol.
    19. 19. :
    20. 20. Case Study Discussion
    21. 21. Provide training about loss and bereavement to resident assistants, student leaders, and others who work with students. Encourage counseling center staff to get specialized training. Provide grief groups, workshops, and educational materials to students about grief and loss. Establish campus bereavement policies. Be sensitive to cultural differences in grief and mourning practices, especially when creating bereavement policies. Offer tangible support (contacting professors or supervisors, with student consent) Refer as necessary
    22. 22. 1. What do you need right now to help you get through this? 2. What don’t you need right now?
    23. 23. Benefits to Cyber Grieving • Ample Resources • Students can grieve with a perceived level of anonymity if they so chose • Allows students to express their emotions and cope with significant losses • Offers support from a wide variety of individuals Risks involved in Cyber Grieving • False information-counterproductive to one’s well-being and grieving process • Ethical and legal implications • All that is posted become public knowledge • Students may rely heavily responses and input of their peers • Impact on student development • Students experiencing psychiatric or mental health issues may need professional intervention
    24. 24. Balk, D. (2011). Helping the bereaved college student. NY: Springer. Servaty-Seib, H. & Taub, D. (Eds.) (2008). Assisting bereaved college students. New Directions for Student Services, Number 121. Sofka, C., Cupit, I., & Gilbert, K. (Eds.). (2012). Dying, death, and grief in an online universe: For counselors and educators. NY: Springer.