Overcoming Grief: Kalamazoo Teens Grieve While Striving to Overcome Gun Violence


Recently the Kalamazoo Community has lost two students, Temetrion Hegler and DeShontae Ellis. There was a candlelight vigil to remember and mourn both students on January 10th, 2016. Even though days have gone by since these tragic deaths, there are still many people trying to cope with this heavy loss. Dealing with grief and sadness is one of the most difficult obstacles one needs to overcome in order to move on with living.
This is the fifth death of a classmate that the Loy Norrix senior class has experienced. Having a class experience five deaths in such a short period since their 8th grade year is difficult, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that people are beginning to reminisce about past friends who died have with these recent deaths.
Loy Norrix counselor Sheryl Scott said “It’s shocking knowing that there are so many students who have experienced all this death. I just can’t imagine how much pain this group of individuals are going through.”
According to Psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief that one goes through on the road to acceptance: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Denial consists of one not being able to believe that the event has actually happened. People who are suffering denial often mentally shut down and are unable to process the tragedy. Some people can show a façade as if nothing happened, but this is often due to the denial of a loved one’s death.
Denial is followed by violence and anger where a person lashes out. This anger can sometimes be directed towards others. Someone going through this stage of grief is expected to be angry at almost anything. They can be angry towards family, friends, acquaintances, themselves, and even towards god. A person will also notice that they are getting angry at others or themselves over the smallest things such as what people say.
Bargaining consists of a person saying that they would trade in something in order to bring the deceased back to life. Often people will commit their life to doing something significant and expect to one day wake up and discover that their loved one is still with them. During this stage people will seek out all sorts of personal faults and use that to bring themselves down.
After focusing on the past through bargaining, the attention quickly shifts to the present in which depression sets in. Depression is one of the most difficult stages of grief for one to manage and overcome. Depression is an overwhelming feeling of feeling alone, helpless and wondering about the purpose of life. It is during this stage that it is crucial to get someone the help they need.
It is important to know that these stages of grief don’t come in any specific order. One can experience denial one moment and feel depression the next. Often the stages will overlap and people will feel these stages at the same time.
“I have sort of moved on, but there are moments when I have a sudden relapse into sadness in which I think I could’ve done something else,” said junior Da’Jzon Hughes.
With the recent events there are many people who are grieving and going through these stages. Both Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix have counselors trained in order to help people deal with loss.
The counselors are trained legal professional psychologists and counselors, “We are trained to counsel students and be there for them, being in charge of data and schedules is second to taking care of our students,” said Loy Norrix counselor Sheryl Scott. Counselors are reliable people to help deal with stress and also grief.
“I think anyone who feels like they are grieving should come in and meet with a counselor,” said Loy Norrix counselor Rebecca Learner.
The counselors fear that there are people who do not feel worthy of receiving this help. Many use the excuse that ‘I didn’t know the person’ to dissuade themselves from meeting with a counselor and getting the support they deserve. However, the truth of the matter is that anyone can experience grief and everyone who is stricken with grief should meet with someone to get help.
A person who goes into the counseling offices can meet with the counselor and personally talk or meet in a group with other people to deal with the grief together. There are many things done in group counseling that help people deal with grief such as reminiscing on memories, talking about how one feels, taking action by finding ways to remember the individual and by using coping strategies.
There are other resources outside of school available to people who are coping with grief. The Southwest Michigan Hospice care has a program called Journey’s which focuses on the needs of people who are grieving. Another place people can call is the Gryphon place; it is always open and anyone can call in if they need someone to talk to.
The most important asset to someone who is overcoming grief is having others to rely on and share their feelings with. Friends, parents, relatives and other trusted adults are great people to confide your feelings to.
Coping strategies are important in helping someone overcome grief, but differ from person to person. Whether it be writing music, poems or journals, it’s a good way for anyone to vent out their feelings and to relieve themselves of bottled up emotions. Another way that one can deal with grief is by attending or planning events for the deceased, such as a vigil. This allows for people to gather and share memories about the loved one. Such events allow one to see that they are not alone and that there are others who are going through the same thing.
“I was close to Temetrion, to cope with it, I’ve talked to relatives and Temetrion’s cousin. I also play basketball to help cope,” said Da’Jzon Hughes.
Overcoming grief is a difficult obstacle that everyone at some point in their lifetime will deal with. The lives lost in the Kalamazoo community have taken their toll and conquering this grief will take longer for some compared to others, but overcoming this grief is the biggest step towards acceptance and healing.