Counselors help with the student grieving process |

Counselors help with the student grieving process

Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox


When experienced it can weaken the toughest person. It can turn a community upside down.

For parents, losing a child is life altering. Friends of the departed will carry with them the memories of friendship.

Area schools have gone through these tragic situations before and have a well-organized system of counselors and faculty members in place to help out the students who lose a friend. But the community’s roll is one of the most valuable forces during these situations.

Beth Sass, student counselor at Coal Ridge High School said that her experiences with the death of a student and the support felt throughout the community, not just the school, was incredible.

“Schools are a kind of community within the community,” Sass said. “When something happens that sparks emotion like when a student passes away, the community really comes together to help out in any way they can.”

Sass witnessed just how supportive the faculty in the Garfield School District Re-2 could be, along with the community members from Glenwood Springs to Parachute during the summer of 2006 when 16-year-old Coal Ridge junior Zach Schwartz was killed in an automobile accident.

During the summer months, when the school is closed, it’s harder for the school to provide help for the students and their families because school is not in session. However, Sass said, when the school found out about Schwartz’s death, the school opened it’s doors to allow a place for students, friends and family to come and grieve.

“Having a way for them to express themselves, talk about it and let out the emotion is really important,” Sass said.

The night of the Schwartz accident Coal Ridge staff and staff from around the district came to the school to help out in any way they could. The school was open for more than three hours that night, and again the next day for people who needed somewhere to go and talk to someone, or just be with people dealing with the emotions that tragedy brings.

“Death shakes the community,” Sass said. “We offer them a place to decompress and discuss the situation. During the summer it’s different. There isn’t a protocol in place, it’s pretty much who’s ever in town at the time.”

But during the school year they do have a system in place for students and families.

Sass said that one of the first steps the school takes in these situations is to first get all the facts straight about the incident so that they can tell the students the facts of what happened and prevent rumors from spreading.

“It depends on the situation,” she said. “It is a difficult time but it’s still time to celebrate the life of the student. That’s part of the process, remembering the life they had on the earth.”

Sass said the role of the school and the faculty is to manage what the students need and to focus on how to help them get the support they need.

It’s not only the teachers, students, family and friends that only have to deal with the loss, it’s the community as a whole. The members of the community also help each other get through a tragedy. That’s just part of the deal when you live in a place like Garfield County.

Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. 16604

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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