Letter to the community

The Newtonite

The below letter was mailed to Newton North parents earlier today with information regarding the disappearance and death of senior Karen Douglas. Obituary to follow.

Dear North Community:
It is with a heavy heart that I write to let you know that late Saturday, October 5, the body of Karen Douglas, a Newton North senior, was discovered in Natick.  Authorities have said that the death is not suspicious and there is no foul play.
Our thoughts are with Karen’s family during this difficult time.  Karen will long be remembered for her kind and loving spirit, warm smile and love of crafts and sunflowers.   Karen’s parents want others to know that she had been struggling with personal issues for a while and she was receiving significant support.
We will open the school this afternoon from 2 pm to 4 pm for anyone who might need to gather, entering through Tiger Drive.  We will have counselors available in the library and both students and parents/guardians are welcome.
On Monday, teachers will observe a moment of silence with their classes at 8:30am during A block.  We will then return to the routines of the day.   We know from experience that getting back to the routines of school can be comforting and reassuring for our students.  We will also have counselors available in their offices all day for students who might need additional support, and will send a team of counselors to each of Karen’s classes.   If you have any concerns about your child/children, please make contact with their guidance counselor or housemaster and we will make sure to follow up with them.
Processing a sudden death is very difficult for adults and teenagers, so we wanted to share some resources with you as you discuss this situation as a family.

  • Everyone responds to death differently. It is not unusual for old issues to resurface.  Each person should be given permission to feel a range of emotions. Some students may be visibly upset, while others may appear to have little or no reaction. Still others may act out, laugh or act inappropriately.  There is not right or wrong way to feel or react.
  • Normal emotional responses include: anxiety, fear, sadness, helplessness, guilt, anger, shame, and relief.  Normal physical reactions include: trembling, pounding heart, rapid breathing, lump in throat, stomach churning, feeling dizzy, cold sweats, and racing thoughts.  (Delayedphysical signs of stress include: regression, sleep disorder, feeling helpless, and feeling responsible for the event.)
  • Remember that any death can reawaken feelings about a past loss.  Both teens and adults who have experienced any death prior to this can feel the impact of that loss again. Sometimes feelings that surface may be about the past loss and not the recent death.

Below are three websites that we recommend for information about how to appropriately respond and effectively communicate with children after traumatic events and news:
1.The National Association of School Psychologists provides tips for parents and teachers at this website:http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx.
2.The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also provides guidance on how adults can help children after a traumatic event at this website:http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//SMA12-4732/SMA12-4732.pdf.
3.Dr. Robert Evans, Psychologist and School Consultant, offers five guidelines that can make a positive difference for children after tragic events.  Visit this link for more information: http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/sites/default/files/users/176/helpingchildrencopewithtragicloss.pdf.
Riverside Mobile Crisis Intervention (781-769-8674) can also be called if you have concerns about the safety of your child.
Thank you, as always, for being our partners in this process.  The strength of our community comes from us working together and supporting one another during these difficult times.
Jennifer Price