Remembering Mitchell and Quinn: Pulling Together When a Friend or Classmate Dies

Coping with lossI asked our friend Robin Morris of Hospice of Washington County for some tips for teens who are dealing with the death of a friend. The last month has been a difficult one for many people, first with the loss of Quinn Hoover, and now with the loss of Mitchell Akers. It’s a small county, and although I had never met either young man, I do know their families and friends, and my heart breaks for them. I hope that this advice from Robin provides some help and I highly recommend contacting her if you would like to talk through your feelings. ~Shalom

A death for which there is little or no preparation results in a very difficult grieving process. This is because, in addition to the grief (emotional response) to the loss there is also the sudden shock of the loss and the sense of being overwhelmed. There is no opportunity to anticipate or to begin working on grief, as would happen in the case of death due to illness. There is no opportunity for final resolution of any differences with the person or a chance to say goodbye.

ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS You can expect to go through many different feelings as you try to cope with the tragedy as shock, anger, denial, fear, sadness and guilt, may all be bubbling up inside you. You may even begin to question the very meaning of life itself. This time of grief will undoubtedly feel very strange and uncomfortable, especially if you have not experienced death of a friend or loved one, before. Trust that you will get through it. Time and talking with others will help you cope.

COMMEMORATE THE LIFE Get together other friends and classmates and do things to honor this person’s LIFE. Organize or participate in a candle light vigil, or party where peers are encouraged to speak of memories. Make a point of talking about funny or happy memories especially if the person was fun loving and outgoing.

BE A VISIBLE SUPPORT TO OTHERS As mentioned above getting together with friends and peers to “remember” the person is a positive and healthy way to cope with your grief. Planning a memorial service or finding ways to display support like tying ribbons around trees or placing flowers by an accident site are visible signs of community support as well as of the loss. Offering to shop or run errands for the grieving family can lessen some of the stress that interferes with grief. Even though you can’t replace the lost life, you CAN help the survivors.

FIND A WAY TO REDEEM THE TRAGEDY Setting up or working on a fund raising campaign to offer a scholarship in honor of your classmate
(for incoming students) is one way to keep the fond memories alive while helping you to cope with the loss.

LOOK AHEAD Trust that your friend’s life had meaning and that your friend’s spirit lives on. And as you hold on to your cherished memories don’t be afraid to talk about the pain and loss. Don’t be afraid to listen to others who need to do the same. Most of all don’t be afraid to trust life.

For help with grief and loss concerns and issues don’t hesitate to call Hospice of Washington County…301-791-6360.

Robin D. Morris, MSW, LCSW-C
Bereavement Specialist
Hospice of Washington County Maryland

See also: A Faith Perspective: Why would God take away teens?


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