Grief and Loss Support

Woman Praying

Grief is the normal and natural human response to having loved and lost. At one time or another, everyone experiences loss and grief. The specific expressions vary from person to person and according to the felt impact of the loss.

When experienced for the first time, grief can be disorienting because it can cause changes in our thinking and behavior for a period of time. Grief is not a mental illness, but is instead the normal process of human response to loving and losing. It can involve many feelings and phases until one reaches a place of ultimate acceptance of a loss. But even when one fully accepts a loss, grief may not fully go away. A more realistic goal may be coming to a place of relative peace where the loss takes on a new meaning. But ongoing support may still be needed.

For many people, the wisdom of religious, spiritual, and humanistic traditions can offer comfort in facing life's losses and grief. These traditions hold within them wisdom from across times and places for responding to the losses of life. Such responses include worship, prayer, and meditation; reading scriptures and texts; caring conversations with spiritual or humanistic leaders; rituals such as wakes, shiva, funerals, memorial services, vigils, and shrines; creating writing, artwork, and music; and many other ways people respond to loss and process grief.

The Emory University Office of Spiritual and Religious Life (OSRL) is a resource available for Emory students, faculty, and staff members for support in times of loss and grief. We offer opportunities for pastoral care and conversation; support with planning memorial services and vigils; and referrals to other resources to assist the community with grieving and healing.

All of the chaplains in OSRL are available for pastoral care, which is a form of confidential care and counseling provided by spiritual and humanistic leaders. As practiced by OSRL, it is offered to Emory students, faculty, and staff members of all faiths and no faith, and it makes no assumptions about a person's faith or practice. It can be as simple as a listening ear for emotional and existential support, or it can involve exploring beliefs, teachings, scriptures, and rituals. For an appointment, please contact the chaplains directly.

Emory University OSRL is honored to assist loved ones, friends, and colleagues in celebrating the lives of Emory students, faculty, and staff members. Such memorial services are generally distinct from and take place after family funerals, and they provide an opportunity for the campus community to honor a loss. These services can be religious in nature or more spiritual or humanistic.

Cannon Chapel is the preferred location for campus memorial services, and it offers many benefits in terms of logistics, music, equipment, etc. Charges are borne by the requesting party, School, or department, with OSRL helping to coordinate the service planning and leadership, music on piano or organ, AV support, greeters, publicity, a flower arrangement, printed programs, and a reception if desired.

For more information, please contact one of the chaplains. OSRL can also help to provide referrals for alumni, families, and friends of the university, whether near or far.

From time to time, it may be appropriate to mark a loss or tragedy on campus or in the wider community with a vigil. Emory OSRL's chaplains are available to support Emory students, faculty, and staff members with planning vigils--which can be religious, spiritual, interfaith, and/or humanistic.

OSRL can provide planning support, coordination, AV support, publicity, access to candles and supplies, support with transmitting charitable donations, etc. For more information, please contact one of the chaplains.

Many of Emory OSRL's Religious Life Affiliates are clergy and spiritual leaders in different communities and can also offer pastoral care and support with memorial services and vigils: Campus Ministers.

Emory offers other excellent resources for secular counseling. Emory students can access Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and Emory faculty and staff can access the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP). The staff in Emory Campus Life Belonging, Community and Justice are also excellent resources for students for listening and support.

Counseling at Emory

  • Clinical Services pages/Groups and Workshops
    • "Support Groups" section lists a Grief and Loss group as an example of their support groups that "bring together students who have similar experiences or concerns; the focus is on emotional support and encouragement."
    • Grief & Loss Support listed as a Support Group currently being offered
  • About Us/Emergency and Crisis Response
    • Crisis Triage Appointments are available Monday–Friday, 8:30-3:30, by walking in to CAPS. You can also call CAPS at 404-727-7450 for consultation by phone.
    • Emory Healthcare psychiatrist-on-call: 404-778-5000 (available after hours or weekends)

Video - Grief and Loss:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

American Psychological Association:

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization:

Very Well Health

Grief Anonymous

Grief Share