Processing grief after several recent tragedies involving local kids, teens

Seeing yellow tape drape across a street isn't common; neither is identifying loved ones at a crime scene. Yet both anomalies feel all too common the past six weeks in Michiana, as several children and teens have been killed in bus accidents and house fires.

On Sunday, investigators found the body of pregnant 17-year-old Breana Rouhselang in a Mishawaka dumpster. The high school junior was allegedly murdered by 16-year-old Aaron Trejo, the father of her child.

Psychotherapist Dr. Erin Leonard said it is common for young people to experience survivor's guilt following the death of a friend or loved one who is close in age.

"They feel like, 'Oh, I should have done something, or I should have seen the signs,'" explained Leonard, who practices in Mishawaka. "And that's really impossible for sometimes kids to sort of anticipate trauma, obviously."

She added that the grief process is cyclical, with an ebb and flow of intense feelings.

"One day, they might seem OK, and the next day, they might be really, really angry," she said.

Parents, Leonard said, should show empathy toward grieving children and adults who either are directly affected or not immediately impacted by a tragedy.

"When they feel listened to and understood, they feel less alone," she said.

Rushing the grieving process is never helpful.

"The last thing people need to do is be attacking or blaming with someone going through grief," Leonard said.

Mishawaka High School had grief counselors available on Monday to help students process Rouhselang's death.