About one in three college students have experienced the death of a family member or close friend within the past year (Balk, Walker, & Baker, 2010).
Several factors unique to the college age and environment can make grief during college particularly difficult to encounter with resilience. These factors include geographic distance from home and usual support systems, academic pressures, inadequate peer support and empathy, and limited resources for grief support on many college campuses.
Thus, grieving college students are at greater risk than their peers of a host of physical, academic, social, developmental, and emotional issues (Balk, 2008; Servaty-Seib, 2006). Moreover, grieving students commonly report feeling alone, helpless, unsupported, and like no one “gets it” (Fajgenbaum, Chesson, & Lanzi, 2012).
Despite the need and calls in the literature for improved university support efforts (Balk, 2001; Wrenn, 1999), few targeted, supportive interventions existed on college campuses before National Students of AMF (AMF) in 2005.
Why AMF, a HealGrief program, has made such an impact:
AMF is the first initiative of its kind: created by grieving college students for grieving college students. AMF has also benefited from the expertise of nonprofit leaders, professional staff, college mental health professionals, and bereavement experts.
Unlike generalized counseling services, AMF outlets are targeted to the specific population in need. AMF Chapter Leaders create a peer-led support group, which is NOT a counseling service, but rather a support system for grieving students to connect and share their experiences with other people who “get it.” Furthermore, AMF Campus Chapters provides an array of supportive opportunities. Since many college students may be reluctant to participate in support groups or counseling and still others may benefit from more than one resource.
Furthermore, Chapter Leaders make meaning and find benefits through channeling their grief towards helping other students in the Support Group and participation in the Service Group. The Service Group provides a tangible and therapeutic benefit for the bereaved, a positive impact on the community at large, and an opportunity for friends of the bereaved to show their support. Abundant anecdotal evidence suggests that students, especially males, who may shy away from support groups and professional counseling, have found participation in AMF service activities to be a significantly therapeutic and often preferable outlet (Fajgenbaum, et al., 2012).