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
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: http://www.condo-owner.com/article/it%E2%80%99s-the-wild-west-out-there%E2%80%A6/Belushi Image Source: http://tommytoy.typepad.com/tommy-toy-pbt-consultin/2012/08/how-colleges-and-universities-have-turned-to-social-media-to-recruit-the-brightest-students.html
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:http://www.studentsofamf.org/grief-support-resources/college-grief-statistics/--Cyber Grieving Resources:http://navigatingcyberloss.wordpress.com/http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/childrens-health/articles/2011/03/28/social-media-has-good-and-bad-effects-on-kids-expertshttp://www.slideshare.net/guest362ea4/cybersavvy-therapy-social-networking-of-grieving-youthNational Funeral Directors Association - http://www.nfda.org/
Cyber Grieving in College
Michael M. Kocet, Ph.D., LMHC
Associate Professor and Student Affairs Program Director, Department of
Counselor Education, Bridgewater State University
firstname.lastname@example.org @drmichaelkocet (508) 531-2721
Christina Hale email@example.com
Kelly P. Burne GA_Kburne@bridgew.edu @kelly_burne
Peter M. Quinn firstname.lastname@example.org @pmaxquinn
Jeffrey Sarahs email@example.com
Graduate Students, Student Affairs Counseling Program
Bridgewater State University
Learning how to meet them where they are at,
one tweet at a time...
Every minute of the day:
• 100,000 tweets are sent;
• 684,478 pieces of content are shared on
• 2 million search queries are made on google;
• 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube;
• 47,000 apps are downloaded from the App
• 3,600 photos are shared on Instagram;
• 571 websites are created
• $272,000 is spent by consumers online (Pring,
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.
Online student engagement
happens in many different ways:
• transitioning or adjusting
psychologically to the campus
• increased maturity,
• meeting educational goals,
• being persistent,
• and developing a self-concept
that is positive in nature
89% of college students use social
40% of first year students look to
social media to find out how to get
(Dahlstrom, deBoor, Grunwald, & Vockley, 2011; Junco, 2011a; The
National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, 2012):
and Mastrodicasa & Metellus, 2013)
Oftentimes, we may get a sense of a
college student experiencing grief and
loss, based on what they are posting or
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).
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, &
“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)
Physical Effects of Bereavement
Behavioral Effects of Bereavement
Interpersonal Effects of Bereavement
Cognitive Effects of Bereavement
Emotional Effects of Bereavement
Spiritual Effects of Bereavement
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
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.
I. To accept the reality of the loss (Not
II. To process the pain of grief (Not feeling)
III. To adjust to a world without the deceased:
External adjustments: Living daily without
Internal adjustments: Who am I now?
Spiritual adjustments: Reframe
IV. To find an enduring connection with the
deceased while embarking on a new life
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.
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.
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
The loss of a partner (within an affair)
The loss of a same-sex partner killed in
The loss of a pet
The ending of a long-term friendship
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.
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
1. What do you need right now to help you get
2. What don’t you need right now?
Benefits to Cyber Grieving
• Ample Resources
• Students can grieve with
a perceived level of
anonymity if they so
• Allows students to
express their emotions
and cope with
• Offers support from a
wide variety of
Risks involved in Cyber Grieving
• False information-counterproductive
to one’s well-being and grieving
• Ethical and legal implications
• All that is posted become public
• Students may rely heavily responses
and input of their peers
• Impact on student development
• Students experiencing psychiatric or
mental health issues may need
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.