UTEP’s Living with Loss helps students cope with grief

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Graphic by Hugo Hinojosa

The ‘Living with Loss’ group meets at 11 a.m. every Friday via Zoom to learn about the different ways to cope with grief amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victoria Rivas, Contributor

UTEP’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is hosting Living with Loss, a support group opened for all UTEP students who have experienced a loved one’s death.

The program was initially planned as an eight-week support group that started on Feb. 5 and was intended to end on March 26. However, because of various student requests, the program was extended until the end of the Spring, on May 14.

“This group was developed as we saw the need for a place where students who have lost a loved can receive support and feel safe and comfortable to do so,” Erika Pereda, psychology doctoral intern at CAPS, said. “The current pandemic has definitely made loss more significant. However, the plan is to continue with this group even after the pandemic is over as the need will always be present.”

The support group meets every Friday through Zoom at 11 a.m. to help students learn about grief and process their loss with others who have gone through a similar experience.

“The group was designed to create a space for students who have gone through a recent death,” Pereda said. “We’ve heard in the past that people tend to feel very sad, out of place, and misunderstood. So, having a space where people have experienced a similar pain, is very helpful.”

During the workshops, the group speaks about grief, the grieving process, healthy and unhealthy patterns, and how to cope after losing someone.

“We talk about some of the expectations that we may have regarding loss. We talk about common reactions, both physical and emotional. And then we also talk about some of the issues about losing someone and how to manage the unexpected feelings of grief,” Pereda said.

Every time the group meets, the counselors check in with each participant to see how they feel. Afterward, they are provided with information about how to deal with loss, and anyone can share their personal experiences.

“We do ask them to share the reason why they are here. But we all manage grief in different ways, and so some people are ready to talk about it, and some people are not. So, we don’t necessarily push students to share more than what they want, but we do encourage that,” Pereda said.

During the workshop, participants are encouraged to share their memories and describe their relationships with their loved ones instead of focusing on their recent death.

According to Pereda, grief can be about many different types of losses like losing a loved one, pets, relationships, friendships, divorces, and jobs.

“For this particular group, we do ask that they have lost a loved one. Just because it can be maybe difficult for some people to relate,” Pereda said.

Overall, the support group’s goal is to gradually help students move forward and find meaning in losing their loved ones. Only five students are consistently participating every week, but the support group is still open to any students who are interested in joining and they must register before attending the workshop.

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