Loss or grief means more than death, William Hoy told Wheeling Park High School juniors and seniors during an assembly Friday morning.
"Grief is anytime we experience a loss which changes how we live life," Hoy told the audience of more than 800 students. "Even positive things that happen to us can feel like loss. But grief is normal because loss is normal."
Hoy teaches medical humanities at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he specializes in bereavement and end-of-life care. Friday morning's talk was part of a series arranged through Kepner Funeral Home's new Community Outreach program aimed at helping residents cope with feelings of grief and loss. He had already spoken with local ministers and medical personnel with the community at large on Thursday evening, and planned to participate in workshops with Wheeling Park High School counselors Friday afternoon.
Photo by Daniel Dorsch
From left, William Hoy, Alex Kepner and Jim Kepner prepare for Hoy’s talk with Wheeling Park High School students Friday morning.
"I don't do these kinds of programs with students very often," Hoy said. "This is a bit of an experiment. From what experience I have with students, they're very open to learning."
Kepner Funeral Homes President Jim Kepner said Friday's event was coordinated by his son and director of the Elm Grove location Alex Kepner along with Community Outreach Director Annie Hawkins.
He said Robinson Automotive Group, Kalkreuth Roofing and Sheet Metal and Main Street Bank all co-sponsored the series.
WPHS Counselor Jessica Laslo said Kepner approached Ohio County Schools in the spring to offer further training for their counselors and talk with their students. She said Hoy was welcome and counselors looked forward to working with him.
"Kids need support through many situations," Laslo said. "Coordination with community services to bring in experts is very important."
Hoy told those assembled that coping methods developed during adolescence become the methods used for the rest of peoples' lives. However, he said even grief can have an important purpose to serve, painful though it may be.
"Again and again and again the great things that happen in life happen out of grief," Hoy said. "Grief has this amazing capacity to change who we are. Reach out. Know loss is normal and it does not mean the end of your life."
WPHS senior Jack Hawkins said he found Hoy's talk enlightening.
"It gave us a lot to think about and it definitely could help with people who have experienced grief," Hawkins said.