The Grief Industry

A few minutes after 9 p.m. Monday, a red Honda traveling at a high rate of speed drove off the road. The driver overcorrected and the car skidded sideways, striking a second vehicle. The driver and the passenger of the Honda, both 16-year-old students at a nearby high school, were declared dead at the scene of the accident. The driver of the second vehicle was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

The accident was the lead story on every local news broadcast. It was the main story in the newspapers. Photos of the red Honda, totaled beyond recognition, were shown over and over again.

As I read an article about the accident, what stuck with me wasn’t the sad details but that the high school sent 11 grief counselors to the school to help students cope with their loss.

Eleven grief counselors.

Make no mistake, it was a tragedy. Two sons, friends, and brothers are dead. Another seriously injured. Two families are mourning their loss. A second family is anxiously hoping their loved one will recover.

But this wasn’t Columbine. It was an auto accident most likely caused by an inexperienced driver going too fast. It’s the kind of accident that could have been prevented. Why did the school district feel the need to send 11 grief counselors to the school. Did they feel the need to talk with the entire student body?

Unfortunately sending in an army of grief counselors at the faintest hint of tragedy has become common practice. We’ve become conditioned to believe that no one can begin to move on or start to heal unless we’ve all done our due diligence with a grief counselor or therapist.

Friends and family members of the 16-year-old boys are going to be sad over the coming days, weeks, and months. With some the sadness might linger on for years. And, yes, there may be one or two that need professional help. But most will not. The vast majority of those who loved and knew them will move on with their lives.

Most people – teenagers included – have the ability to adequately cope with death of friend of loved one without professional help. Those most likely to take up the services of the 11 grief counselors those who 1) weren’t that close to the boys who died and 2) already have some type of emotional problem. Rather than sending grief counselors to the school (since when has it become the business of schools to provide grief counseling anyway?) the school should have seen how students were dealing with the death of the boys weeks or months later. Those that appeared to still be having emotional issues should have been referred back to their parents and let them decide how best handle the situation.

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