Shadow Loss: Young Adults Cope with Missing Out During Pandemic

*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on EurekAlert!

A new paper featuring college students’ experiences with loss during the COVID-19 pandemic shows that although few directly experienced a close death, everyone lost something that impacted their lives.

Researchers collected the stories as part of class assignments where students reflected on their earliest and most significant losses regarding COVID-19. The new paper, titled “Young adults experiences with loss and grief during COVID-19,” appears in the journal Death Studies.

Although grieving deaths were mentioned by several participants, most talked about what are often referred to as “shadow losses,” said Raven Weaver, assistant professor in Washington State University’s Department of Human Development.

The term ‘shadow loss,’ coined by thanatologist Cole Imperi, reflects losses in life, not of life. Those types of losses include losing social experiences, like going to football games or parties, not seeing family or friends in person or bigger events like having a wedding canceled. Students tended to minimize those losses, however.

“The idea of self-disenfranchisement was very common,” Weaver said. “They would say things like ‘It was a loss, but not a death, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.’ There’s a sense that we shouldn’t grieve smaller losses. But we need to acknowledge that talking about smaller losses is a healthy response and can benefit our mental health.”

The paper appeared in the journal Death Studies.

Source: EurekAlert!

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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