SAN ANTONIO – Hundreds of students and teachers sought emotional help from crisis response teams dispatched to Clark and Harlan High Schools over the last several days, said Dr. Kimberly Ridgley, director of guidance and counseling for the Northside Independent School District.
They were first sent to Clark High School last Thursday after learning that Alexa Montez, one of its cheerleaders, was found shot to death in her home.
More counselors arrived at Harlan High School on Monday after football player Shomari Anderson, died in a car wreck Saturday.
Ridgley said many expressed their gratitude for being able to spend time with counselors who are mental health professionals trained in grief and loss.
"Lots of sadness, lots of anger over lives cut way too short," Ridgley said. "Kids really struggle making sense of that."
She said it’s up to counselors to help them, and even their parents, work through their grief and loss.
Ridgley said they start with the basics.
"Putting your arms around someone and sitting with them, listening, acknowledging the fact that they’re hurting."
She said they also try to help young people understand.
"Why my friend? Why a car accident? Whatever the 'why' might be," she said.
After that, there’s the question of. "What do I have control over?"
Ridgley said certain questions are frequently asked, such as "What do I need to do to feel better?" What do I need in the coming days?" and "What do I wish to do different?"
Being that both students whose lives were lost were known as kind, caring people, Ridgley said simple acts like greeting strangers and sitting with someone they don’t know at lunch are ways to honor their memories.
She also urges parents to monitor their children’s social media activity, which can be harmful at times like this.
"You can’t unread what you’ve read. You can’t unsee what you’ve seen," Ridgley said. "Try to stay away from the rumor and speculation."
She said Northside has sent out letters to parents with what they need to be aware of as their sons or daughters grapple with sorrow.
Ridgley said the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas also is offering resources to families needing support.