1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Transylvania starts innovative grief support group for students

people in a room

Transylvania University this month is launching a group to support grieving students.

In partnership with the Kentucky Center for Grieving Children and Families, the school’s Peer Healing Group is providing Pioneers with a space to share their thoughts and emotions with one another and a clinician while increasing their sense of empowerment.

KCGCF works with youths throughout Kentucky, but this is its first college-age group — one that may serve as a model for others in the future.

“In my mind it was the perfect site for this kind of first run at this kind of group,” said KCGCF Executive Director Leila Salisbury. “There’s such a real focus on the students.”

College presents its own specific challenges for someone dealing with grief, for instance, being away from home and friends you grew up with … maybe facing a commencement without a family member you expected to be there.

Salisbury said in general there is a hole in services for grieving young adults, adding to the significance of the one at Transylvania, a college with a “strong sense of caring” and a “united community.”

The group, which deals with grief of any kind, will meet on campus an hour a week for around two months (participation isn’t documented in any school records). Students who participate will not only benefit themselves, but they’ll learn how to better help peers in the same situation.

Emily Miller, the Peer Healing Group organizer and Transylvania’s director of spirituality and religious life, said KCGCF is an amazing organization and she hopes to continue the program next school year. 

Miller noted how these sessions, similar to group therapy, can help students find mechanisms to cope with college life — from academics to extracurriculars. “How do I put one foot in front of another when I’m dealing with something so heavy inside that nobody can see?”

To make the group happen has been a cross-campus effort. Miller sought input from counselors at Transylvania, who agreed it will benefit students. The project also got support from Ashley Hill, associate dean of students and director of student wellbeing, and funding from the president’s office.

It is no coincidence KCGCF started at the college level with a school like Transylvania, which Miller said values “taking care of one another.”

Photo: Transylvania and KCGCF staff met earlier this school year before starting a Peer Healing Group.