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How To Help A Grieving Student
How To Help A Grieving Student

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AIR DATE: June 17, 2013

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Rosemary Virtuoso, Department of Student Threat Evaluation and Crisis Response, Clark County School District

BY ERIK HELLING -- Last month, students at Bonanza High School lost two classmates. Andrew Sasse, a senior, died in a fall at Red Rock National Conservation Area. And 15-year-old Marcos Arenas was killed in traffic during an attempted robbery.

Rosemary Virtuoso is part of the crisis response team that was dispatched to help students and teachers cope with the losses. Virtuoso, who stayed at Bonanza High School until the end of the school year, noted the “multiple stressors” on the students’ plate as they balanced their schoolwork with coping with the loss of their classmates.

She emphasized the importance of addressing student’s emotions when helping them through their grief.

“What we try to do is help children understand what the feelings are, (and) that they are very confusing. The emotions have to be interpreted in certain ways, but first they have to emote and (we) try to make sense of them.”

Virtuoso says that the deaths of the two students in May were senseless, but she has to help students understand that situations such as these happen.

“We don’t really understand this issue of ‘control’ or lack thereof around us, and that certain things are beyond our control,” Virtuoso said.

She brings up the point of proximity affecting grieving students as well. The closer the student was to the deceased in terms of common classes, extracurricular activities, and neighborhood directly influences how much the death of another student will affect them. The CCSD Crisis Response Team considers those factors when helping students.

The overall goal of Virtuoso and CCSD Crisis Response is to get students to the point where they can move on.

“We want the students to be stabilized and back to their normal activities.”

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