Grieving Bend youth find a way past the pain

Mtn. View students join in Children's Grief Awareness Day

Grieving youth get special support

BEND, Ore. - Mountain View High School students Iris Light and Nicole Pomeroy were inseparable.

"It was very hard to keep us apart for very long. She basically lived at my house, and if she wasn't at hers, she was at mine," Iris said.

On July 29th, 2012, years of friendship came to a tragic end.

"She went on a rafting trip with my family and I, and she wound up getting stuck under a log because our boat hit a log and it tipped and she got stuck underneath there," Iris said.

Nicole got trapped in the Umpqua River, and drowned.

Iris lost her best friend.

"I cried myself to sleep almost every night, or every day and every night," she said.

Unfortunately, Iris is part of a surprising statistic.

"One in seven students have lost someone significant in their lives, whether that's a parent, aunt, uncle or sibling. And that means almost 200 of our students have lost somebody," said Mt. View counselor Shanna Hancock.

That's why at Mountain View, counselors and staff work to provide support for grieving students.

"Getting them connected with groups that we have, like Partners in Care, and we run a grief group here a couple times a year," Hancock said.

On Thursday, dozens of students wrote down names of people they've lost on butterflies -- the national symbol of Grief Awareness Day.

The sign in the cafeteria brings some hope to change the culture in school by making death and grief an 'OK' topic.

"Even out in the commons today, you heard Iris say, 'I didn't know you lost your mom" to another student -- and they have a class together. So I think it's important that we bring that awareness to Mountain View," Hancock said.

Iris ended up joining a grief support group and became a mentor at a summer grief camp. She says Nicole and the school encouraged her.

"I've even picked my profession." Iris said. "I want to be a grief counselor and a mental health therapist. And if it wasn't for Nicole, I probably wouldn't have settled for something that I think I was meant to do."

She says she's come a long way since last year, and it's all thanks to her Cougar support.

"Every time I did have a breakdown, I knew I was comfortable and I could talk to my counselor. The school has done more support for me than almost anything," she said.

Even though the butterfly holds just a name, it holds a much stronger message. The lasting words she has for her friend.

"I would tell her, 'I'll always love you no matter what. You mean the world to me, and thank you for changing my life and being the closest thing that I could ever ask for.'"

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