Cassie LaJeunesse, Campus Carrier News Editor
Having experienced two student deaths this semester, the Berry community is in the midst of the grieving process. Though not everyone knew either David Shankles or Joseph McDaniel personally, the whole campus community felt the effects of losing one of its own.
“I think it has felt like a heavy semester, emotionally,” Dean of Students Debbie Heida said. “Even if you weren’t directly touched, it just felt like a heavy semester.”
Berry’s Peer Educators want to emphasize that it is okay for someone to grieve even if they were not directly affected by a loss.
“It’s okay to be upset about something even if you weren’t extremely close to that person, because it’s a tragedy that affected our whole campus,” senior Peer Educator Sarah Andrews said.
In light of the losses of Shankles and McDaniel, the Peer Educators hosted grief events in order to start a conversation among students about dealing with loss. They provided informational pamphlets at these sessions, as well as an opportunity to talk to Peer Educators and Marshall Jenkins, the director of the Counseling Center. The pamphlets encouraged students to view grief as something to “walk through” rather than something to “get over.”
“When someone’s life brought happiness and love to yours and gave to your life in some way, it’s normal not to “get over” them,” the Peer Educators said.
On Nov. 20, a celebration of life service for Joseph McDaniel was held in the College Chapel. The service was attended by members of the Berry community, as well as by McDaniel’s family. In her campus-wide email about the service, Heida said “there is comfort in gathering as a community, in the sharing of the life of Joseph as well as sharing in our grief.” The Peer Educators also believe in the importance of community, and believe that it has helped with the grieving process at Berry.
“You hate that the tragedy happened, but it was encouraging to see Berry come together,” Andrews said.
Heida said that grief is normal in a community, so Berry does its best to support students who are going through the grieving process at any point in time.
“Grief is a process,” Heida said. “It’s not like a light switch. It will hit people at different times.”
Students who are dealing with grief are encouraged to reach out to the Counseling Center and the Chaplain’s Office.
“We’ve tried to engage everybody,” Heida said.
According to Heida, Resident Assistants are trained to deal with grief and reach out to people. Work supervisors and faculty advisers are asked to encourage students to talk to them if they are concerned.
The Peer Educators want students to know that the Counseling Center is a resource for them, even if they don’t want to commit to regular counseling sessions.
“You can go one time and that would be the only time you go, but at least that would be a resource if you need to talk to somebody,” Andrews said. “If you have a day where you just feel like you need to talk to someone, you can make an appointment.”