UTEP SELC supports students and staff coping with grief amid pandemic


Graphic by Hugo Hinojosa.

Victoria Rivas , Contributor

UTEP’s Student Engagement and Leadership Center (SELC) hosted Coping with Grief March 10, an event focused on providing tips for those experiencing loss during a global pandemic.  

Thursday’s discussion iSELC’s second presentation as part of its This Matters program, aimed at providing a safe space for all attendees to engage in meaningful conversations for more progressive and inclusive actions. 

The event was in collaboration with UTEP’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), featuring counselor Krista Powell and licensed clinical social worker, Elisa Dobler. 

Powell discussed the different types and stages of grief and how to recognize someone who has difficulty coping with it. 

“There’s a lot of loss during this time,” Powell said. When thinking about the loss of a loved one, the pandemic has brought some pretty unique challenges, and it’s important to acknowledge those and recognize someone that is experiencing grief.”  

In El Paso, as of March 11, there have been 2,222 confirmed deaths due to COVID-19. 

However, Powell explained grief is not only the loss of a loved one, but it also includes pets, breakups, divorces, loss of a job, loss of freedoms during a pandemic, and inability to have certain events or traditions. 

“Grief can refer to a lot of different kinds of losses, and it’s okay to have feelings about grief and about any of those events,” Powell said. It’s okay to feel the way you feel.”  

Although Powell said the process of grief is not linear, she mentioned it is divided in six stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and finding meaning. 

“It’s important to not compare yourself to someone else or to what you might see in your family and culture,” Powell said. Everyone’s grief journey is unique, and that’s important to recognize. Your journey may be different from someone else’s.”  

Like Powell, Dobler said grief depends on what the individual lost. While coping skills may change over time, she recommends individuals slow down and take a deep breath to acknowledge the feeling. 

“There’s no one way to cope or one way to heal, there’s no one way to do anything really,” Dobler said. 

Attendees were asked to share how they coped with loss. Some mentioned going to the gym, taking a day off and relaxing, or writing about their feelings. 

Daisy Marquez, SELC’s leadership, inclusion, and advocacy coordinatorshared her experience in losing UTEP’s graduation ceremony to the pandemic as a first-generation college student. 

“At first, I didn’t cry, I wouldn’t really acknowledge it,” Marquez said. “Then, I just had a breakdown one day, and I cried, and then it was just accepting the fact that it’s not going to happen and it’s okay. I try to remember that yes, I have a degree, but also accepting that it’s okay to feel sad about the fact that I didn’t get a graduation.”  

Powell and Dobler encouraged all attendees to have a good circle of friends and loved ones to support them emotionally and socially 

The next This Matters discussion will be April 14. All attendees must RSVP on Mine Tracker to join the meeting.  

Victoria Rivas may be reached at [email protected]; @VicRivas_18 on Twitter.