MARSHALL - In a time of crisis, the best thing to do is to turn to each other, said speakers at a gathering at the Marshall Middle School Tuesday night. Perhaps the deepest crisis of all is the loss of a child.
"You don't get over it," said Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert. "But by working together, we can get through it."
Tuesday's meeting was geared toward adults and parents in the community, with advice on how to help children and youth cope with the recent deaths of two Marshall students.
The evening began with a moment of silence for Haylee Fentress and Paige Moravetz. The two girls died in an incident this weekend. Willert said the circumstances of the deaths would not be discussed at the meeting, and questions from the media would not be taken.
Speakers at the meeting included members of the Critical Incident Stress Management Team, school counseling staff, and members of the community. The grieving process is something that varies from person to person, and the same goes for children, speakers said.
Quinn Horvath of Rehkamp-Horvath Funeral Home said stages of grief can range from shock and denial to anger or depression.
"The process can be quite messy," and the steps seldom come in order, Horvath said. "Kids will grieve in little bursts of energy."
Horvath and Marshall High School counselor Susan Bowen said it's important to talk to children openly and honestly about death.
"Let them know it's okay to feel angry, it's okay to feel sad," Horvath said. At the same time, Bowen added, it's okay to laugh and to have happy moments.
If kids would rather not talk, do something together with them, Bowen suggested. It's also important for children and adults to stick to their normal routines and remember to take care of themselves. Going without sleep, food or exercise isn't uncommon for grieving people, but it's neither helpful nor healthy, she said.
Cindy Manthey of CISM said parents should not overlook the role social media can play after the death of a student. Texting, Facebook and Twitter all make it easier for misinformation and rumors to get spread around. In working with Marshall students, she said, "We've been handling the rumors, we've been talking about the rumors."
Rumors are a concern because young people tend to be impressionable, Manthey said.
"They also don't have much of a filter as to what gets posted," she said. Supervising children, and shutting off cell phones or Facebook at night is good for everyone's well-being.
Speakers stressed that there is a difference between feelings of depression triggered by a death and clinical depression. However, Manthey said symptoms like depression or withdrawal that persist beyond a child's normal grieving process may be cause for concern.
Manthey said members of the CISM team will continue to be available to the community for questions. Links to more information and resources will also be posted on the Marshall school district's website.
"The strongest message we can send to everyone is that help is available," Bowen said.