Talking With Your Kids About Grief, After Two Hanford High School Students Die This Past Week

RICHLAND, WA- Students, parents and teachers are trying to cope with the loss of two students this week. 

Our NBC Right Now team hopes you are able to sit down with your kids and read this report, and maybe even have a discussion afterward. 

"The first thing you have to do is let that child grieve. I think so often we think we need to cure the grief or we need to get over the grief really quickly, that is impossible," explained Phil Cioppa, a Bereavement Counselor at Heartlinks Hospice in Sunnyside.

Students at Hanford high school tell NBC Right Now, it is all too sudden. "These parents need a lot of love and support. They do not need to be told what to feel. They need to feel what they feel," said Cioppa.

11th grader Gavin Slack and 10th grader Zachary Schmidt died within just the last few days.

"Even if you didn't know the other teen, you have now had these incidents. So close together. It makes you start wondering, are you missing something? Or, if you're having difficulty inside being accepted or maybe you have been bullied or whatever, now it is coming more to the surface," explained Cioppa.

There even may be a lot, that does not make sense, "They're going to go through the stages of denial, they are going to be angry. That is probably the worst stage. You know, because that is when you feel, right now they are numb," said Cioppa.

As a loved one, you can help. You can listen to what they have to say, "Strange things may come out of their mouth and a lot of it may not make sense," said Cioppa.

Do your best to be there, regardless if it is today or a year from now. Cioppa insisted, "If you see a change in behavior, a change in attitude, a change in grades, get in there. Intervene and don't wait and then say later, 'Oh I wish I had known'."

Schmidt died unexpectedly on Monday, right now the cause of his death is unknown. Slack, a constant participant in athletics, died on Tuesday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The suicide prevention hotline for Benton and Franklin counties is (509) 783-0500, and if you live in Yakima call (509) 575-4200.

Heartlinks Hospice is in desperate need of volunteers for their services, please give them a call at (509) 837-1676 and ask for Phil Cioppa.

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