January 7, 2016
Dear SAHS Parent,
Earlier this week the SAHS community was hit with a tragic loss. Senior Chloe Duke and her mother were murdered in their home on Tuesday evening. This event has deeply affected many SAHS students because they knew Chloe or her family and/or because of the nature of their deaths it has brought forward many sad emotions. Many students are struggling with their grief, wonder why something so tragic like this has taken place or want to know what they can say or do to help. This situation is very unusual and I’d like to offer you some resources for assisting your student through this difficult time.
During times of crisis within a school, the Anchorage School District routinely sends additional counselors and school psychologists to the affected school to provide assistance to students and staff. This has been taking place at SAHS both yesterday and today. Students at any time are able to seek this assistance if they need it. This support will be on-going as long as we need it here at SAHS. If you are worried about your student, please contact their school counselor and we will do a “check-in” with them and you to offer any assistance or resources that we can provide.
Teenagers have a wide-range of responses to sad news, depending on how well they knew Chloe and/or her family or how many losses they have experienced in their past. The following are ways you can help your teenager cope with this information.
- Allow them to express their sadness.
- Let your teenager tell you how they feel—listen.
- Reassure them that they are safe.
- They may need to be told repeatedly they will be taken care of and that you will be there for them.
- Be patient; you may need to answer the same questions over and over.
- Understand that teenagers will move back and forth between feeling sad and wanting to return to “normal.”
- It is important to maintain routine and stability as much as possible.
- Allow your teenager to be a part of the memorial services if they would like to attend.
- Teenagers often need a way to remember their deceased classmate or friend. Allow this to happen.
- Encourage your teenager to reach out to trusted friends and adults for help.
- Make sure your teenager is getting plenty of rest.
It’s also important to remember that grief has a cycle. Teenagers will move through this cycle of grief much like adults do and sometimes go back and forth between these stages of grief. It’s also important to understand that teenagers understand the finality of death and may grieve for an extended period of time. Below I have listed a short synopsis of this grief cycle.
- Shock and Disbelief: Students can’t believe the loved one is actually deceased.
- Searching and Yearning: Students are feeling lost and out of sorts. They want things to return to the way they were and are looking for answers as to why it happened.
- Disorganization and Despair: Just when you think your student may be getting back to “normal” you may see them regress somewhat. This may manifest itself in the form of headaches, lack of sleep or appetite or disinterest in activities.
- Rebuilding and Healing: In this stage, students experience a sense of relief, renewed energy and display better judgment and stable sleeping and eating patterns.
At this time, we do not know any memorial service information for Chloe or her mother. When this becomes available we will communicate this with students who are interested in attending.
As a way to show our school support of Chloe and her family, students have asked that everyone wear blue to school on Friday, January 8th. If your student would like to participate please have them do so.
If you are concerned about your teenager at home and would like some additional assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us here at SAHS and we would be happy to help.
Dr. Kersten Johnson-Struempler