With the loss of two students and one coach this school year, the morale of the students has been particularly low. In the past couple of months Shawnee Mission West High School has experienced multiple traumatic events that have effected majority of the student body.

Students have tried their best to move on from the losses, because they know that they can’t mourn forever.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Swiss American psychiatrist, outlined the the five stages of grief in her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying”, her premise is that to fully heal from a loss, a person must pass through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Individuals can pass through the stages of grief multiple times and in varying degrees. The  final stage is acceptance. Recognizing the the loss, sharing feelings with others and remembering loved ones will lead to acceptance.

Close friends of the deceased have said that this has been the hardest time of their lives.

“It’s a hard, long process. You go through a lot of emotions,” Paige Parker, sophomore, said.  Parker was dating junior, Ashton Brunmeier when he passed away, it has been extremely difficult for her.

Many students have found comfort in being with the families of the deceased students, spending time with their friends and social media.

After senior Tom Karlin’s death in November, friends shared memories and photos on his Facebook wall.

“I think social media has been really helpful with the process. For some students writing on the deceased persons’ Facebook is a way they connect with that person,” Cindy Neely, counselor, said.

Anecdotes and tributes are a method of bargaining they are a commitment to remember the individual.

“Facebook has helped me because I’ll be feeling down then I’ll see peoples stories and memories and it makes me laugh because Ashton was a goofy kid,” Cole Bryant, junior, said.

Freshman Madison Moore said reading the stories on Facebook has helped her get some closure.

Students turned to Twitter to remember Brunmeier by tweeting his initials #ATB, and trying to make them trend. According to the Twitter help center, the trending topics reflect what new or newsworthy topics are occupying most people’s attention on Twitter at any one time.

Not only have people from our area come together to try and get #ATB trending, people from all over the world have been tweeting it. #ATB was a trending topic, in parts of India, Europe, Brazil and China.

On December 7, #ATB was one of the most tweeted things in America.

“It has really helped me to see that #ATB has been tweeted nationally, it  shows how much everyone is coming together to support Ashton and his family,” Sara Kraff, senior, said.

Celebrities including, Tech N9ne, Mac Miller, Jozy Altidore, Erin Andrews, Frank Martin, Bill Self and KU and K-State football and basketball players, have also tweeted #ATB in memory of Brunmeier.

“Seeing celebrities tweet #ATB has really helped me through all of this,” Jesse Wilkins, sophomore, said.

For other students just seeing everyone come together has helped them.

“What has helped me most is the support I am getting from everyone in this area, all my friends and stuff,” Seve Sites, junior, said.

Lucas Sylvester, senior, said he is glad to see all the good memories, and all the friends in the Viking community just being there for each other.

School administration has recognized what a good resource social media can be. Dr. Charles McLean said that they have decided to develop a West Facebook page and Twitter account.

“They [students] don’t think e-mail is as great as I think it is. Mrs. Warren is going to be in charge of the Twitter and Mr. Burgat is going to be in charge of the Facebook. It’s going to be a way to get information out to the students quickly.”

“Unfortunately we have to live through the pain and not deny that something happened, if we don’t deal with the pain now we will have to deal with it later,” Cindy Neely, counselor, said.

Teachers and administrators have also had to deal with these events in their own ways. It isn’t easy for them either.

“It’s certainly been a challenge this year. Regardless of how close you are to the people we have lost, there are always people around you that are effected so you are dealing with people that are sad. We try to be pretty flexible with giving people extra time on things, but we have to continue to move on,” Brad Tennant, math teacher, said.

Not only does the staff have to deal with their own emotions they have to deal with the students feelings as well.

“Just like students, I have my strong moments and my weak moments, and so I feel the sadness just like everybody else,” Neely said. “ I also know that I have to try to help students deal with their grief. I have definitely had my tears, just like the students rely on friends, I have relied on the support of my colleagues to help me face the same task of grieving.”

For the techno generation, social media is the newest way to help individuals grieve.

Photo: Dylan Crow