Family Loss and Mental Health

It was an ordinary Saturday morning.

I switched on my phone to check the overnight messages and there was one particular message which caused me to breakdown – my dad had passed away.

It had happened very suddenly and I was shocked. Thankfully, I was able to book a flight immediately to leave the UK, which brought me home to my family in Hong Kong the next day.

A similar thing had happened before. Last year my father was hospitalised and I flew back home to prepare for the worst. After two weeks of care he pulled through and survived. But this time, he was just gone.

The unspeakable pain of loss is all that I can feel right now.

As a student, family is probably the second most important aspect apart from studies. Whatever bad happens to them can cause us anxiety and stress. What can be even more devastating sometimes is when we can’t be there with our families because we are so far away from them at critical moments. During my two-week stay in Hong Kong, I was not able to help much, but being there reassured me that at least I was trying. In addition, I also realised that I needed support from my family at this difficult time.

After coming back to the UK I was hoping to resume my normal routine, for example, writing up my thesis. However, it is harder than I ever imagined. At times, I feel guilty for leaving my family behind to pursue my studies overseas. I now feel sick of writing or even having a thought of writing as I don’t see much point in it. On the other hand, I am desperate to end my PhD as soon as possible especially because of the stress that comes with it.

After hearing about my family’s loss my supervisors advised me to take a break from the PhD and get back to it once I am ready. After all, my mental health is invaluable.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

If you are an international student with family bereavement or mental health issues there are people who are able to help you. The following are useful links:

Student Minds (

Student Minds is a national charity that helps students to talk about mental health and seek help.

The National Union of Students

The mental health of students is an issue of concern for the National Union of Students (NUS). They have an easily downloadable guide on how to look after your mental health:

The Bereavement Trust (

If you are going through the loss of a family member or close friend it can be very hard. The Bereavement Trust offer help to those in this situation.

Friends International staff workers

We have staff all over the country who are happy to just sit and talk with you. Search for your city or town and find your local staff worker, using the Friends International App

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