Counselors Offer Advice After Rash of Teen Deaths

By Melanie Posey

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Dozens of Hoover High School Students took advantage of counseling offered Tuesday in the wake of the sudden death of one of their classmates.

Fifteen-year-old Natalie Hurst was killed early Monday morning while riding with a friend.  The driver, 16-year old Sydney McLemore, was injured in the wreck but is expected to survive.

Hurst is the fourth teen to die in five days in car accidents across central Alabama.  Seventeen-year old  Cody Watson of Weaver died late Friday night in Anniston.  He and another young man were riding with a friend when the car ran into a pole.   And early Tuesday morning, 16-year old Labaron Sanders and 17-year old Joshua Sparks were killed when the car they were in slammed into a tree.

The recent deaths can be especially hard for teens to handle, counselors say.

"By the time you get to be an adult and experience death, usually you have compiled a set of coping skills and coping resources," says Marion Kellough, an intervention counselor for the Hoover City School District.  "When they're teens, they haven't developed that yet, so it's kind of new territory from an emotional standpoint."

It can also be tough for parents to help their children get through such an emotional time.  Kellough says parents can be most supportive of teens by allowing them to grieve in the way they need to.

"So some students want to talk and that helps them, but others may not.  They may need some time," Kellough says.  She encourages parents to keep a close eye on their children and watch for significant changes in things such as eating or sleeping patterns, grades or weight loss.  It may be that parents need to seek extended counseling services for their child.

She also says parents can use such times to help their teen understand that even though it may be tragic, death is normal.

"Parents can help by breaking down those barriers and saying, death is a part of life, and it's sad and all those emotions we feel are okay," Kellough said.