April 3, 2019

Handling grief and emotions 20 years after Columbine

WHAT: April 20 marks the 20th anniversary of the high school shooting massacre in Columbine, Colorado. The number of school shootings has increased steadily since then, causing short- and long-term grief for survivors and members of society across the nation. 

EXPERT: Heather Servaty-Seib, a professor of counseling psychology in the College of Education, specializes in grief and can talk about the continuing effects of the Columbine shooting. 

QUOTE:  “Grief is a complicated concept – it overlaps with trauma-and absolutely applies in an ongoing way to situations of mass violence such as school shootings like Columbine.  In contrast to messages we often receive about grief — it is an experience that never really ends.  It changes and shifts over time — but it is an ongoing process with no real timeline.

 “A critical element with situations like Columbine is that they have broad, deep, and far reaching impact. Mass shootings result in multiple deaths, they are human-made and viewed as preventable, and often occur in contexts that almost everyone can relate to. There is such a high level of perceived similarity that they can affect people on an intimate level even when they had no direct connection with anyone who died. “ 

MORE INFORMATION

  • Leads the loss and grief research team at Purdue.
  • Associate head, Department of Educational Studies and associate dean of student life, Honors College.
  • Developed the Perceived Impact of Life Events Scale, an instrument that uses a gain/loss approach to assess the multidimensional impact of single-life events.
  • She was instrumental in leading Purdue and other universities to adopt a grief leave policy for students. 

Writer: Brian Huchel, 765-494-2084, bhuchel@purdue.edu 

Source: Heather Servaty-Seib, 765-494-0837, servaty@purdue.edu

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