In the event that you must miss class because of a major crisis such as hospitalization, accident, family crisis or the death of an immediate family member (parent or sibling), we want to be of help in order to offer care and to notify others here on campus. You may contact the Office of the University Chaplain at 254-710-3517 and someone will notify your professors to let them know of the crisis until you are able to communicate with them on your own. Remember however, there are no excused absences at Baylor. Our notification is simply a ministry to you during a crisis and does not excuse the absence. If your situation is not a major crisis, please notify your professors personally so that they will be aware that your absence is for family or personal reasons.
What is Grief?
Grief is a natural process of working through a loss. Losses are a part of life. The loss, however, can take many forms: the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the divorce of parents, or even the loss of a dream. Dealing with a significant loss will be difficult, but grief is healthy and natural, a path to a healing.
Types of Loss
Some types of loss most commonly associated with grief include:
Death of a family member
Death of a close friend
Death of a classmate or colleague
Serious illness of a loved one
Change or breakup of a relationship
Some less obvious losses can also cause feelings of grief include:
Loss of a vocational dream
Death of a pet
Loss of financial security
Common Reactions to Loss
It is important to remember that how one responds to loss and the length of that response differs from person to person. There is also not a set sequence in which one responds to loss. Some common reactions are:
Denial, numbness, shock
Coping with Grief
Healthy coping skills are important in resolving a loss and help us move forward in the healing process. While each person is unique and what is helpful to one might not be helpful to another, this list may give you some ideas about ways to try to manage your feelings of grief:
Talk with friends and family
Seek counseling support
Seek spiritual support
Exercise and eat healthy foods
Listen to music or read books
Engage in social activities
Join a support group
Take a break and relax
Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to feel grief. It’s important to note that some ways of coping are helpful and healing, such as journaling and talking with others. There are other ways of coping that are destructive to the healing process, such as substance abuse and isolating yourself.
Our staff cares for you. We realize that the college experience can be challenging and that, at times, you'll want to seek direction, ask questions, share doubts and concerns, discuss your spiritual journey, and more.
Meet with a Chaplain
To schedule an appointment with Burt Burleson, the University Chaplain, or Tyler Conway, Sr. Coordinator of Pastoral Care, please email Spiritual Life.
If you live in one of our residence halls, one of our resident chaplains (all are current Truett Seminary students) would be happy to meet with you.
Additional Spiritual Life staff members can also meet with you! Drop by the Bobo Spiritual Life Center during weekdays from 8 am-12 pm and 1 pm -5 pm to meet our staff.
Send in a Prayer Request
Would you like for our Spiritual Life staff to keep you in prayer? Send in prayer requests to Burt Burleson.
As Baylor seeks to be the “caring community” expressed in and expected by our mission and heritage, administrators, faculty, and staff communicate in an ongoing way regarding students who are in need. Here in the Office of the University Chaplain, we are charged, not only to offer direct care to our students but also to prompt the caring response of others in the Baylor Community. Daily we make calls and send emails, to share timely information about students who may be in a crisis or who are dealing with a particular and pressing need about which some in the community need to be aware.
Much of our communication comes in the form of “notifications” to faculty members. These are essential communications and because of the frequency of these notifications (and perhaps because of experience in other institutions) some confusion develops about the role the Chaplain’s office plays.
In order to clarify our role you will see below the relevant portion of Baylor’s Class Attendance policy and then a few answers to questions that may be on the minds of some faculty members.
Class Attendance Policy (paragraph 5)
In the event of serious illness, accident, or death in the family, students should contact their professors as soon as they are able. When such a crisis prohibits the student from being able to make immediate contact, the office of the Chaplain notifies faculty when information is available; the Chaplain, does not, however, pursue official verification of such reports. Requests by faculty to verify the nature of an absence should be made to the student upon the student's return. Students are usually allowed to make up classwork and/or tests missed that result from such crises. As these instances are academic matters, any dishonesty on the part of a student in such a situation is considered a violation of the University Honor Code.
Are students required to contact the Chaplain’s office when they have missed class so that a notification from the Chaplain can be sent to faculty members?
No! As the policy states above, students should be in touch directly with their professors. However, students can be encouraged to contact us if pastoral care is needed (254-710-4276). Students can also be referred to the Baylor Counseling Center (254-710-2467) and also to Baylor’s case management office (254-710-7069) whose work is centered in compassionately helping students access resources at Baylor.
When does the Chaplain’s office notify professors on behalf of students?
We do so when students are in a significant crisis, perhaps because they have been hospitalized or are trying to recover from or deal with a difficult and ongoing medical problem. We certainly want to notify when there is a death in the immediate family. In essence we want to, for a time, take that burden off of some students, while at the same time guiding others to take the initiative they need to take in communicating with faculty and others at Baylor.
What is the purpose of notifications from the Chaplain’s office?
There are two reasons for our notifications, the first is to prompt the caring response of others in our community. The second, is to help faculty and others on campus, make decisions regarding how to proceed with academic requirements or other matters that may be at stake because a student is in crisis.
Does the Chaplain’s office excuse absences or verify a student’s reason for missing?
No! However, in some cases, our office (along with others on campus) can be a helpful conversation partner as a professor is discerning how to respond to a student. For instance, with a student’s permission, we can confirm what a student has shared with us regarding the nature of their crisis. We can also share, with their permission, what we have observed and what we know to be true as we have walked alongside the student. However, we do not “excuse” an absence nor are we charged, as the policy makes clear, with investigating in order to verify what a student has reported to our office.
Because we are a caring community, we grieve with and support those who are experiencing loss. If someone in the Baylor community experiences losses, please let our office know by contacting Spiritual Life.
During difficult seasons or in times of crisis, if you’d like for the University Chaplain to come to a staff meeting and lead a time of prayer and reflection call or email the Spiritual Life Office.
Email the University Chaplain's Office
Faculty and staff at Baylor are invited to seek individual spiritual direction through the office of the University Chaplain. You can email Burt Burleson directly.
Prayer Services for Your Department
If you would like us to lead a prayer service or help you lead a service for your department we have resources and staff to help you. You can set up a meeting with one of our staff members:
Carlos Colon, Assistant Director of Worship and Chapel
Charles Ramsey, Director of Campus Ministries and Church Connections
Burt Burleson, University Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual Life
Supporting those in grief will be vital to their healing process. Here are some helpful tips as you seek to provide support and care to a loved one experiencing a loss.
Remember: Ignoring grief is not a response!
What do I do?
We often find ourselves afraid that we will upset the grieving person by bringing up such a painful experience. However, to err on the side of initiating conversation about the loss that has occurred in your friend’s life is the more human thing to do. If they don’t want to talk about it, they will usually say so.
Do say “I don’t know what to say”:
You don’t have to have the perfect or most profound thing to say to someone who is grieving. We often hesitate because we don’t know what to say. Just saying “I’m sorry” or “I wish I knew what to say” can be beautiful words to those in grief.
There are some phrases and clichés that you should probably avoid, such as:
It wasn't meant to be
You must be strong
She lived a good life
You must move on
God will never give you more than you can handle
It’s over with. Let’s not deal with it
Get a hold of yourself
Pull yourself together
Be strong for the children
Get back on the horse again
It was God’s will
You can always have other children
Others have it worse than you
What did you do wrong?
God must have needed _______ in heaven
There is a reason for everything
Mark the date of your calendar. Remember when the one-month anniversary occurs, and even the six-month anniversary. Remember the holidays. It is natural for one to feel strong emotions on these days, and to often feel alone on these days. Send a note, make a call, show up.
Listen. Listen. Instead of needing or wanting to say something, offer to listen. “Tell me about your mother.” This is a precious gift you can give to someone. Our stories need to be told and can serve in the healing process
Do show up:
The ministry of presence is a powerful gift to those who are grieving. Simply sitting beside someone is a reminder that they are not alone. You do not have to say much, just your presence is an act of Christ-like support. And, yes, casseroles and cards are helpful and welcomed… never underestimate these practical gestures.
* A special thanks to Regina Easley-Young, who teaches Death & Dying in the Baylor HHPR department, for her contributions to the information on this page.
Here for you:
University Chaplain & Spiritual Life Staff
When to reach out:
When it becomes almost impossible for you to get out of bed
When you have thoughts of harming yourself of others
When you have not talked to anyone about your loss
When you experience a sudden change in personality
Good Grief by Granger Westberg
Lament for a Son by Nicholas Woltorstorff
The Unwanted Gift of Grief by Tim VanDuivendyk
Where is God When it Hurts by Phillip Yancey
Turning my Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times by Henri Nouwen
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Tracks of a Fellow Struggler: Living and Growing for Grief by John Claypool
Is God to Blame? Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering by Greg Boyd
* copies of all these books are available at the Resource Library at the Bobo Spiritual LifeCenter
Sacred space abounds at Baylor. You can find spiritual nurture at Baylor by spending time in one of our gardens, prayer rooms, or chapels (see below). There are also several ongoing services of prayer and worship.
Elliston Chapel (East Village) *
Robbins Chapel (Brooks College)
Memorial Chapel (Memorial Hall)
Bobo Spiritual Life Center Chapel *
Powell Chapel (Truett Seminary)
The Foyer of Meditation (Armstrong Browning Library)
Garden of Contentment (Armstrong Browning Library)
McCall Chapel (Stacy Riddle Forum)
University Chapel in Waco Hall (Mondays and Wednesdays; 9:05, 10:10, 11:15)
*These spaces can be reserved for your student organization or campus group.