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School, community faced with helping grief process

School, community faced with helping grief process

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By MAGGIE KIELY

maggie.kiely@theeagle.com

Coping with the death of an entire family can be difficult. And explaining the loss to children can be uncomfortable.

College Station school officials on Friday were faced with the task of informing students about a car wreck that killed a family of five, including three of their classmates.

On Thursday, Ismael Perez, 41, Minerva Perez, 37, and their three children -- Josefina Perez, 4, Celeste Perez, 5, and Jeanette Perez, 7 -- were killed in a head-on collision with another vehicle near Normangee.

Chrissy Hester, director of student services for the district, said helping students grieve should be a family process.

"Death is kind of something you can't visualize or feel," she said. "I think when it's a car accident, they're going to say, 'Am I going to get killed in a car accident?'"

That's when you explain not everyone dies in car accidents, she said. Keeping things simple and following through on questions asked will help kids cope, she said.

Allowing children to express their feelings is important, too, Hester said. Once children understand the concept of death, Hester said families should discuss their religious beliefs and how they play into death.

Keeping loved ones close through memories can be helpful, too, she said.

Enrique Hernandez, the pastor at Templo Sulamito, which the Perez family attended, said he would help his congregation members cope by reminding them of the strong connection the family had with God.

"They died in Christ," he said. "Remember the good times. We cannot bring them back, but we can enjoy their memories."

Hester said counselors will be on hand to help students deal with grief Monday at Southwood Valley Elementary School, which the Perez children attended.

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