Love never dies: We need to come together to cope with grief (Editorial)


Heidi Heinlein and Kathleen O’Neill pose with their JT shirts and stickers. Many mementos were created in order to keep JT’s memory alive.

Death is a part of the circle of life, but a loss is still shocking no matter if it is expected or not. JT Kuhn, a previous Carlisle High School student and Periscope staff member, unexpectedly passed away on Mar 4, 2019 and the effects were felt all throughout the school and community.

Kuhn was a friend of mine for many years. We first met when he introduced himself through a direct message on Instagram after the first day of school. We were talking about school when I asked him what school he went to… he responded by telling me that we had history class together.

Since then I have considered him to be one of my very best friends. Over the course of our friendship, I have collected many great memories with him. We created inside jokes about the “rules” in the movie Middle School: The Worst Years of my Life. He brought me a flower to the movie Trolls just out of kindness. He even always remembered what I wore to school on that very first day of seventh grade.

In the eighth grade, we had locker keys for our laptops and if you lost yours, you would get in trouble. I left mine in class and when I went back for it, they had already turned it into the teachers who supervise the locker situation. I was too scared to go get my key so JT claimed it as his own so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

Around Christmas time we were in a little argument. Despite the circumstances, he still decided to get me a present. He had made a collage of our pictures together, attached the quote “The past holds a lot but the future holds more,” and wrapped it up to give to me when we left school.

On the Thursday before his death, I was notified by a close friend that JT had a heart attack. I was so shocked and confused and I had no clue what to do. I frantically sent him messages as if he would open them right away and ease my worries. As the torturous days went by, I attended a rally and continued to pray with my friends.

He truly was the most caring and generous person no matter how he was treated by others. He has earned himself the hashtags #infectioussmile and #gentlegiant due to his kind heart.

Unfortunately, he was not able to stay with us any longer and has moved on to “Heaven’s basketball team,” as many people have said in their posts.

In a time of grief, it is very easy to only think about all of the bad memories and regrets that you may have, but the things to focus on should be the positive. Since his transfer to Big Spring High School, we lost touch other than the occasional update conversation. A few weeks before the incident, he had his 16th birthday. I wished him a happy birthday and we talked for a little before ending the conversation with the words “I miss you” and “I miss you too.” I am very fortunate that our last words were what they were and I will hold on to them forever.

Due to the unpredicted death, nobody was prepared for what would follow.

Lynn Zakeri, expert advisor for Accredited Online Schools, said, “Shock can be thought of as an extreme psychological reaction to severe stress. It can include emotional numbness, detachment, flashbacks or nightmares of the event, feelings of nausea and weakness, anxiety, and even a fight-or-flight response.” 

JT had only turned 16 a few weeks before his death and lived a very healthy, athletic lifestyle. The tragic events that unfolded shocked the student body and moved everyone to attend events in his memory. The arrangements included a viewing, a funeral, and a celebration of life.

As a young student, I was not experienced in the proper etiquette during these proceedings, as well as others that are my age. It is very hard to prepare yourself for things like a viewing, especially if they are open casket. Many questions arise about what to do when you attend these events. I personally struggled knowing what was appropriate to wear, what to do when going to a viewing, what to say to the family, how to act and pray, etc.

In these situations, it would be helpful for the school, staff, or other adults to help inform the young students attending. They can find resources to explain the right way to do these things for those affected since they may be preoccupied with how to cope.

I have attended everything that has to do with him and his memory in order for it all to settle in and eventually be able to comprehend his death., a site clarifying the process of grief, explains that there are five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There are medical explanations for how grief affects the body but it can be compared to a broken brain. The five stages may last different lengths depending on the case but are real steps that occur in the mourning process.

It was hard to understand that one of my very good friends was no longer going to be in my life and I had many friends going through the exact same situation. In order to hold onto every last memory of JT, shirts, stickers, and bracelets were made, and sports teams created warm-ups to wear in his honor. Carlisle High School and Big Spring High School even held a baseball game in his honor and called it “JT Kuhn Day.”

All of the events and objects made it easier to deal with. The whole community was filled with support, but I personally feel like there could have been more proactiveness on behalf of the school.

“For children, grief can have a profound effect on learning and school performance,” said David Schonfeld, Director for the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. “Typically, they experience difficulty with concentration. Distractions abound. Schoolwork may seem puzzling or pointless. Good students may be discouraged to see their grades slip. Students already struggling with school may see their learning problems worsen.”

As a lifelong straight-A student, I saw a decrease in my academic performance in the weeks that followed his death. Strangely, the school never reached out to the struggling students or mentioned the death at all. I believe the school should have measures put into place about what to do when this happens.

Although JT was no longer enrolled at CHS, he still had many friends, teammates, previous teachers, and others whose hearts he touched. The staff was informed on the situation because I personally saw them attend some events as well as overheard them offering to talk if needed. More involvement should have been available from the school other than what the teachers chose to do themselves.

Around 3,000 adolescents die in a day and it should be no surprise to the school that this could have effects on the student body. The school sees these students for seven hours a day, five days a week. They should assess the situation and provide support and information on who you can see and what you can do. That way, students won’t have to try to answer their own questions through experience and can be prepared and ready for what to expect.

Although loss is hard, the most important thing to remember is that the love for your friends and families will never leave. There are precious memories that will become even more important to keep and hold onto. The thing that helps me the most is keeping him updated through constant messages and pictures. I haven’t stopped since the moment I was informed of what had happened. There is always hope that I will see him again.

The Kuhn family has been very strong through the process of saying goodbye and kept the public updated through Facebook and a page to send memories and messages to. 

It saddens me every time I get reminded of him or I see yet again another article on his death but I know that my love for him will always be here along with the memories I shared with him.

Disclaimer: Articles designated as “Editorial” represent the views and opinions of the author, not the 2018-2019 Periscope staff, CHS/CASD administration, or the CHS student body.