July 16, 2019

Healing and Hope for Hartford

DATE: 06-21-2013

Hartford School District 

 Tom DeBalsi, Superintendent

73 Highland Avenue  

White River Junction, Vermont  05001

(802) 295-8600

June 20, 2013

Dear Families of the Hartford   MemorialMiddle    School & HartfordHigh School:

As our academic year comes to a close and our students embark on summer vacation, we are heartbroken by the recent deaths of two youths in our community: Ashley Demond and Jacob Moodie.  At this time of loss and as we transition into the summer months, we wanted to reach out with a message of hope and support as perhaps your children and those close to you are discussing these events and trying to understand them.  When tragedy strikes, adults and students can feel like they should have known that this person was struggling.   So often, time and listening are needed for adults and students to be heard and to understand  that we are not ultimately responsible, but that life is moving forward and we can help each other.

In the days and weeks ahead, your children may vary widely in terms of emotional expression and we would like to offer some helpful advice and resources.

Some students may become openly emotional, others may be reluctant to talk at all, and still others may use humor. As parents, family members, teachers, and friends, we can support one another by acknowledging the breadth of feelings, understanding that everyone experiences tragic loss differently, and being respectful of each other even if we experience grief differently.

Some students (and adults) may need help identifying emotions beyond simply sad, angry, or happy, and may need reassurance that a wide range of feelings and experiences are to be expected. They may also need to be reminded that emotions may be experienced as physical symptoms, including butterflies in the stomach, shortness of breath, insomnia, fatigue, or irritability.

Below are some practical coping strategies students can use when intense emotions such as worry or sadness begin to well up:

  • simple relaxation and distraction skills, such as taking three deep slow breaths, counting to 10, or picturing yourself in a favorite calm and relaxing place
  • engage in favorite activities or hobbies (music, talking with a friend, reading, movies)
  • exercise
  • remember how you’ve coped with difficulties in the past and remind yourself to use those skills now
  • write a list of people you can turn to for support and make a list of things you look forward to
  • focus on individual goals or spending time with mutual friends

Often, youth will express guilt about having fun or thinking about other things. They may feel they somehow need permission to engage in activities that will help them feel better and take their mind off the stressful situation. Tell them it’s okay to have fun and to think about other things.

Students may feel helpless and should be encouraged to think about how they want to remember their classmate. Ideas range from writing a personal note to the family, to attending the memorial service, to doing something kind for another person in honor of their friend.  If there are any concerns about a student’s emotional or mental health, a referral should be made to an appropriate mental health professional for assessment, diagnosis, and possible treatment. If your child does not already have a counselor, contact one of the following resources:

  • HCRS Local – 855.220.9430  and  the  HCRS Crisis/Emergency 24-Hour Hotline – 800.622.4235
  • DHMC Psychiatrics – 800.556.6249
  • Second Growth, Services in support of safe and successful young lives – 802.295.9800
  • Headrest Teenline – 800.639.6095
  • HartfordMemorialMiddle School: (802) 295-8640  and  HartfordHigh School  (802) 295-8620

For more information about suicide warning signs or available resources:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7) at 800.273.8255 (TALK)

○     SuicidePreventionResource   Center at  http://www.sprc.org

○     National Alliance on Mental Illness, NH at www.naminh.org

○     (for youth) The Center for Health & Learning at www.umatterucangethelp.org

The Hartford community joins our region in grieving the loss of both Ashley & Jacob.  As we mourn their loss, we look to offer Hope. Hope that youth find the courage to ask for help. Hope that adults and youth alike acknowledge they may not know the answers, but are willing to say “thank you for sharing how you are feeling--let’s find help together”. Hope in the knowledge that Healing takes time, but that it begins by speaking out about our grief and the struggle to understand the loss of life; Hope that each community and each family within the Town of Hartford and its surrounding borders will work together to understand depression, mental illness, and commit to supporting the strength and assets that lie within all of us.

In recent years, students at HartfordHigh School drew a beautiful mural with the help of alumnus artist, Caitlyn Beidler which welcomes students entering the high school cafeteria.  Within the mural is the message of the Hartford High Five, signifying that a “high five” connects us and embodies a healthy & physical greeting.  In our mural, we also placed a heart in the middle of this High-Five hand, signifying the belief, resiliency and warmth of our inner strength and connection to one another, to our school, and to our community.

May this High-Five, this Hope, this Hartford community, embrace our questions and confusion during this time of grief.  Please call upon us if you need to; utilize the resources mentioned here in this letter and enclosed tri-fold card from Umatter.  Many agencies in our community are working together to discern appropriate next steps to help our community; please know that in the weeks and months to come, as you reach out to us, many hands will reach out to you......as will our hearts. 

On behalf of the Hartford School District Administrators & Counselors, and the many agencies that have come together in this message, thank you for caring and listening.

Tom DeBalsi

Superintendent of Schools


(802) 295-8600

Scott Farnsworth

k-12 Director, Guidance & Counseling

farnsworths@hartfordschools.net    and   wecare.hartford@gmail.com

(802) 295-8620 ext. 393