Experts offer advice to help teens cope with grief

Many Woodland Park High School students dealing with death of classmate

POSTED: 11:50 PM MST Feb 01, 2013 
WOODLAND PARK, Colo. -

As friends and classmates mourn the death of 15 year-old Kevin McDonald, therapists and counselors offer advice for parents to help their teenagers deal with grief.

McDonald died on the way to school Friday morning, when the vehicle he and two others were in crashed with an SUV. His classmates are still mourning his death.

"There was kids out in the hall crying," Woodland Park High School student Amber Dudley said. "Everyone was down, people who knew him or didn't know him, everyone was sad."

It's the second time in the last year that Woodland Park High School students have had to deal with the loss of a classmate. Experts say that's not easy for teenagers to deal with.

"You'll often hear the word jinxed, or why us again, or what did we do, or we don't deserve that," said Dr. Ken Calhoun, a therapist in the adolescent department at Peak View Behavioral Health.

He said at this age, most young people see death as something abstract. But tragedies like these make it a concrete reality.

"There's shock, there's denial, there's not knowing what to feel," Dr. Calhoun said.

But Parents can help, by doing things like listening.

"Encouraging them to talk with friends, encouraging them to be willing to express their emotions in constructive, healthy ways," Dr. Calhoun said. "Crying, grieving, writing, journaling."

A Woodland Park High School counselor says one place teens may turn to is social media. So she suggests keeping an eye out for what they're writing and reading. There could be rumors out there. She said to encourage them to deal with the pain in person, hug them, cry with them, simply show them your support.

There are also things experts suggest parents don't do, like saying "it's going to be OK." And don't force them to talk, give them freedom.

It's normal for adolescents to either turn to or turn away from their faith at this time.

Woodland Park High School will continue to offer grief support this weekend. They also have a grief packet on their website. You can find it here.