Chardon, Ohio, school shooting leaves a third student dead, two others wounded; Dr. Mindy Cassel, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Children’s Bereavement Center, on how to get through the aftermath of such a tragic event
The Ohio school shooting that ravaged the little town of Chardon, Ohio, yesterday has left the community with a sense of unspeakable loss. As of Tuesday afternoon, a third student had died of wounds inflicted when a gunman walked into the Chardon High School cafeteria and opened fire on several boys, injuring at least two other students.
Alleged teen shooter T.J. Lane is scheduled to appear in Geauga County Juvenile Court Tuesday. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has a series of stories on the Chardon shooting, and the most up-to-date information on developments in the case.
“The shootings at Chardon High School are an unspeakable tragedy, and our hearts go out to the entire community as they grieve this terrible and senseless loss,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “It’s still too early to know yet why a student took a firearm to school and shot his classmates. But preliminary reports indicate that if it were not for the extraordinary courage of a teacher who chased the shooter out of the school, and if not for the speedy reaction of school leaders, the toll of these shootings could have been even worse. Our thoughts today are with the children, the teachers, and the parents of Chardon.”
We reached out to Dr. Mindy Cassel, Ph.D., C.T., Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Children’s Bereavement Center and a licensed psychologist and certified thanatologist for her thoughts on how parents and specialists can talk to their children and others involved in such tragedies. Here’s what she said…
First and foremost, an event like this impacts not only those students who were directly involved, but the entire community of students, parents, and school staff who live and work in this school and community.
Students generally benefit from an opportunity to meet in groups with a facilitator guiding the discussion to insure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard; this is generally considered a debriefing and focuses on the trauma that has occurred. Including both parents and students together in groups is valuable as well, giving voice to those who need to share their experience, ask questions (even unanswerable questions), and revisit the events in order to process this experience and attempt to make sense of this senseless act.
What many fail to realize is that for some of those involved, this discussion may need to be ongoing; there is no quick fix for such an overwhelming experience or the trauma that is attached to it. Being part of a horrific event like this is like being in a war; those involved are all victimized and need to regain a sense of control over their lives. For many, multiple opportunities to discuss the event, its impact and aftermath and some possible solutions to enhance the safety of the school environment, becomes a means to regroup and ultimately heal. Establishing ongoing group sessions and individual counseling sessions for certain students, if necessary, may assuage the fear and long term anxiety often associated with such a frightening event.
Finally, for those who are mourning the loss of friends and family members, long-term grief support groups – and for some, individual bereavement support – are important tools to assist the adjustment to both the trauma and loss. For these individuals, it will take considerable time, and a community of both professional support and fellow grievers to learn to live with this profound loss.
For more from Dr. Mindy Cassel: Grief After 9/11: The Illusion of Closure
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