University Health & Counseling Services offers Grief Support Group

The Case Western Reserve University Health and Counseling Services (UHCS) is introducing a Grief Support Group for undergraduate and graduate students. UHCS Associate Director and Training Director Dr. Aarti Pyati and UHCS social work trainee Sarah Surna will be co-facilitating the sessions.

The interaction-based group was created so students battling grief have the opportunity to discuss its impact with fellow peers in the same condition. Pyati, a psychologist, anticipates the group to be a challenge for students to share their personal experiences, but aims to help them overcome such challenges through conversations.

“Participants may be able to support one another both in terms of being [able] to share with others, and also in dealing with the most devastating aspects of their grief,” Pyati said.

Dr. Amy Przeworski is an associate psychology professor who studies anxiety disorders. She supports the advent of the Grief Support Group because she believes a reliable support system will help students cope with their grief. She also hopes the group will normalize the varying experiences of grief, because “there are lots of different ways that people grieve and there’s no one size fits all … it’s okay to have something that doesn’t look exactly like what you might expect grief would look like.”

Neuroscience doctoral candidate Colleen McLaughlin, who has a dual degree in biochemistry and psychology from the University of Tennessee, also thinks the group will be extremely beneficial to grieving students. She believes that initiating a grief support group “contributes to the overall well-being of students just to know that the university supports them in coping with grief … even grief that occurs outside of campus.”

McLaughlin agrees with Pyati that it will be challenging for students to discuss their emotions with one another, but thinks the facilitators will foster an environment which will make students comfortable enough to share their feelings. McLaughlin also thinks other psychologically-based groups may be beneficial for UHCS to offer, possibly on a semesterly basis.

In terms of grief, this support group is specifically for those who have experienced the death of someone in their life, but Przeworski points out there are many different types of grief. In particular, that individuals with loved ones suffering from chronic illness experience similar emotions to grief.

“Part of the grieving happens even before the individual passes away,” Prseworski said. “It would be great for those people to also be included, so they can see it’s typical for people to have a reaction of grief even before the person may pass away.”

The Grief Support Group will have its first session from 3 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15 in Room 220 of the Sears Library Building. Registration is necessary to attend, but students who are unable to attend the first session may contact Counseling Services.

“Mental health should be your number one,” McLaughlin said, and the UHCS Grief Support Group aims to uphold this ideal.

Counseling Services can be contacted at (216) 368-5872 or