Coping With Grief and Trauma After BHS’s Loss

After a Berkeley High School (BHS) student’s death on April 18, some students and staff are processing grief and learning how to best take care of themselves and support each other. 

BHS intervention counselor Jasdeep Malhi believes it’s vital that students communicate how they’re feeling to their teachers in order to receive the support they need.

“A lot of the staff are well aware that the students are still coping with grief,” she said. “But, I think one of the things that I’ve noticed is that students have a hard time putting that into words or asking for what they need.”

BHS counseling intern Heather Bean said students can support their friends by offering to help them with “tangible” tasks like getting their homework from a class.

However, she said it’s also helpful to ask people what they need because “sometimes it’s different than what you might expect.”

Zach Meredith, mental health clinical supervisor at the BHS Health Center, said in an email to the Jacket that students can support their friends by listening to them with “compassion and care.”

“It can be helpful when students talk about and share their thoughts, feelings, and grief responses with trusted peers and adults, rather than hiding … its impact,” he said.

Malhi also said students can support their friends by “showing up for each other,” and thinking about what they know their friends would appreciate. 

“[It could be] something as simple as you know that they like this drink at Happy Lemon,” she said. “They may not want to go off campus, but you go off campus, and you grab them boba, and they didn’t ask for it, but you know that about them.”

Malhi said a video was sent out to teachers listing ways they could accommodate struggling students. The suggestions included using “Universal Design Learning,” which could entail allowing students to complete projects in place of assessments.

Counselors will be available every day at lunch for grief support in the counseling offices in the D-Building. Students can also access counseling through the Health Center or setting up an appointment with their academic counselor. Malhi said some students recognized the importance of mental health in light of the incident, and sought help for other issues.

“Students are realizing how much pressure they put on themselves,” she said. “That’s been really challenging, because they realize it, and then don’t know what to do.”

For students struggling with academic pressure, Malhi recommended prioritizing assignments that will have the biggest impact on their grade, and asking their teacher what they should work on. 

She also said that when dealing with situations that feel uncontrollable, such as death and trauma, students should focus on things within their control. She said completing a project with a clear finished product, such as cleaning and organizing, baking something, or creating an art piece, can provide a feeling of “mental release.”

Malhi suggested that students struggling to reconcile the celebrations that come with graduating high school with grieving the death of a peer can try to find a balance between “celebrating and remembering.”

“In your celebration, there’s a memory,” she said. “You can find both in it. That’s part of your transitioning out and getting closure. Seniors understand that about each other, and it’s a matter of not forgetting.”

Malhi said students should know that there is a way to handle whatever situations and emotions they’re going through right now if they reach out for help.

“As someone who has experienced a lot of grief and trauma in my life, in high school in particular, one thing that I tell students is every situation, no matter how hard it feels in that moment, is temporary,” she said. “You may not be able to see that, but there is always a way forward.”

Alameda County Crisis Support Services Hotline (24/7): 1-800-309-2131

Alameda County Crisis Text Line (4-11 PM/7 days/week): text SAFE to 20121

Talk to your academic counselor in the D building (next to the cafeteria). Find your counselor at bhs.berkeleyschools.net/resources/counseling/.

Counselors are also available in the Health center at H105