Campus Life auntie matter

Roommate Grief

Auntie Matter on asking for and giving space


My roommate's pet recently passed away suddenly, and they have been incredibly sad and distraught over the loss. I have comforted them and given them the necessary space in our dorm room when they want to be alone or FaceTime their parents when they are sad. However, while I understand that they are going through something very hard, their incessant sobbing and sudden breakdowns, as well as their impromptu 1 AM phone calls to family to sob over their pet for two hours have been preventing me from sleeping, as their grief has them cooped up in our room for the majority of the day, for over a week now. I want to do my best to support my roommate through this, but I also live in our room and need to rest. What should I do?

Tired and Concerned


Dear Tired,

You mentioned that grief has kept your roommate cooped up in their room for the majority of the day. Letting your roommate stay inside for a long time is probably just as harmful to your roommate’s ability to recover from their loss as it is to you having your own space to rest. Giving your roommate space when they want to be alone is definitely a good thing to do, but you can also consider asking them to hang out or grab a meal with you every now and then. You can’t make it appear as if nothing has happened, but perhaps you could bring some sense of normalcy back to their life and offer an ear to hear them talk about their struggles.

If you'd like to resolve the nighttime calls issue independently, I recommend gently informing them that you’ve been having trouble sleeping and offering up some potential solutions for your predicament. You could guarantee, for example, that your roommate has the room to themselves every day from 7–9 pm (or whatever time is suitable) to call their family privately. Sometimes it’s hard to see other people’s struggles when you yourself are struggling, so it’s possible your roommate isn’t even aware of the issue. Bringing up this issue can be a daunting task, of course, but you can ease the tension by coming prepared with potential alternative arrangements.

You should also consider approaching your GRA to ask them for help in arranging a temporary alternative arrangement. Sometimes your needs and your roommate’s needs might differ, and that’s okay. Most dorms have at least one or two free rooms, and I’m sure they would be happy to accommodate you once they learn of your situation. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your GRA, you could also talk to your Heads of House or Area Director.