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Good grief: Seminar discusses coping methods

Behavior sciences faculty and students will be holding a seminar Oct. 30  from 8-9 p.m. in Zoppelt to discuss preliminary results from a grief and religious coping survey students completed online last semester.

The seminar aims to provide a forum for students to provide feedback regarding their needs on campus for dealing with grief, losses and stressful events.

“We want to share with students what they have reported about their stress or grief, and then hear from the student body about what they would like to see in place,” said Dr. Andrea Walker, professor of psychology. Walker organized the seminar.

In the past, campus Ailing Mothers and Fathers (AMF) has provided support for grieving students.

It is Walker’s goal to make ORU a more “peer-supportive campus.”

“If they want a grief support group, we will continue with AMF,” Walker said. “If they want something else, we will try and make that happen.”

Senior psychology major Keilah Rodriguez was involved with the AMF grief support group last year.

“We really didn’t have that great of turn out when it came to students talking about their grief loss and stress,” Rodriguez said. “It was made a bigger deal that students wanted to have a group to deal with not just loss, but with stress. We found that really interesting.”

The survey taken by 900 students last semester was designed by Walker and her colleague, Dr. John D. Hathcoat from James Madison University, based on results from two previous studies.

They received funding from the ORU Intramural Faculty Research Committee.

Walker conducted a similar study in 2008 that suggested Christian students who had undergone grief or loss were presenting themselves exceedingly positively. So positive were the answers, she wondered if they were being honest.

“What I suspect is that students here aren’t always being completely upfront about their pain because they are kind of taught they need to present themselves in a really positive light.,” Walker said. “In a Christian Evangelical population, I think that’s a common reaction.”

Intrigued with the environment on campus, Walker did another study in 2009 to 2010 looking at the college student experience in a Christian university.

What she found from this study also surprised her.

Student resources of family and religion were heavily relied upon by the freshmen when they experienced death loss. On the other hand, seniors who experienced a death loss did not rely on religion or family coping, or at least did not report it.

“So that led me to the point to ask what was happening in terms of religious and spiritual development for students on campus,” Walker said.

At the seminar, two students will be sharing their experiences with stress or loss, and different coping mechanisms.

The seminar is for any students who deal with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, insomnia or anyone who wants to help others with these difficulties.

“It’s important that students voice what they need, because we are listening,” said Walker.

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