April 3, 2020

With school events canceled, students are grieving what they will miss

WHAT: With large gatherings being prohibited because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person commencements are canceled for many university students finishing their education. Graduation ceremonies, spring sports seasons and proms are no longer possible for high school seniors.

EXPERT: Heather Servaty-Seib is a professor in counseling psychology in Purdue University’s College of Education who researches loss and grief experiences in both death and non-death situations. She can speak to the importance of acknowledging the losses and recognizing the grief that occurs when these important rites of passage cannot be practiced in their traditional form.

servaty-seib-h20 Heather Servaty-Seib. (Purdue University photo) Download image

QUOTE:  “Grief is not specific to death. As humans we grieve all types of non-death losses and that includes situations where expected and anticipated rites of passage can no longer occur — at least not occur in the same way. We need to challenge ourselves to be creative in modifying these rites of passage — to develop approaches that still allow for meaningful ritual and community connection.”


  • Leads the university’s grief and loss research team, focusing on a variety of death and non-death loss experiences (e.g., divorce, romantic breakup, sports injury).
  • Associate dean for student life in the Purdue’s Honors College.


Writer: Brian Huchel, bhuchel@purdue.edu

Source: Heather Servaty-Seib, servaty@purdue.edu. In addition to phone interviews, the professor is available for interviews via Zoom as well as Skype and WebEx.

Note to Journalists: A photo of Heather Servaty-Seib and a stock image is available on Google Drive.

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