• Counselors stand ready to help students grapple with loss
by Naomi Klouda
Seventeen-year-old Cody DeVaney was found dead on a trail near his East Skyline home this weekend of a gun shot wound.
A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints 2821 East End Road with a grave side prayer to follow. A potluck dinner will be held at the church at 6 p.m. where everyone who has been touched by Cody can share their thoughts and love.
DeVaney’s death was mourned at Homer High School Monday, with counsellors reaching out to students upon hearing the news. Principal Allan Gee wrote a letter to parents letting them know of the crisis.
The Alaska State Troopers issued a brief report that on late Sunday night, at 8:09 p.m., “Soldotna State Trooper Dispatch received a report of a self-inflicted gunshot incident, involving Cody Devaney, age 17 of Homer, Alaska. He was pronounced deceased at South Peninsula Hospital at 20:30 hours. Next of kin notification was made.”
The school was notified at 8:15 a.m. Monday of DeVaney’s death. Gee said he immediately gathered staff to make the information known in preparation for helping the students cope.
“Each student is addressing their grief in a different way and even people who didn’t know him are experiencing a range of emotions,” Gee said. “Our goal right now is to allow a safe place to communicate and talk with one another.”
DeVaney was in his junior year of high school in the Connections Program. His family wrote of him that Cody had a very loving and tender heart. “Cody was passionate about cars. He helped build and race two stock cars with his dad, brothers and grandpa. He was looking forward to attending a vocational college where he could continue his automotive passion. He also loved the Alaska outdoors where he could enjoy his second passion, snowboarding.”
Gee wrote in his letter to parents that the school’s thoughts and prayers are with his family and close friends during this time. “Our Homer High students and staff are all mourning this unexpected loss. Counselors are available on our campus for the next few days to provide support for students and staff. If your child needs to talk with someone, she or he will be encouraged to do so as we respond to the situation with sensitivity to attend to our students’ emotional needs.”
He encouraged parents to communicate with their children during this emotional time.
“We will work through this as a school community, but will need your support,” he wrote.
In helping the grieving person, the school passed along guidelines, taken from “Helping the Grieving Student: A Guide for Teachers.”
Common Behaviors to Expect. These symptoms include withdrawal from parents and other adults, angry outbursts, increased risk-taking behaviors (substances, reckless driving, sexual behaviors); pushing the limits of rules. This may include a lack of concentration, an inability to focus and signs of exhaustion.
People can help a grieving child by allowing for regression and dependency. Encourage expression of feeling such as sorrow, anger, guilt, regret. Understand and allow for variation in maturity level. Answer questions honestly and provide factual information.
It’s important to not act as if nothing has happened.
In Homer for help in cases of grief, suicide, and other mental or emotional needs contact The Center’s 24 hour-a-day crisis services: 235-7701 or walk-in between the hours of 8:30-5:00 Mon-Fri at 3948 Ben Walters Lane, on evenings, weekends and holidays call 235-0247 or 911 or walk into the South Peninsula Hospital Emergency Department.
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