Two and one half years ago, Red Bank Regional (RBR) junior Giana Apreza entered Red Bank Regional high School as most teens excited about the prospects of high school. Although she loved to write, she did not feel enough confidence to try out for RBR’s Visual & Performing Art Academy’s popular and competitive Creative Writing program. A Neptune City resident, Giana elected to attend RBR’s Academy of Finance instead. The youngest of three children, and the only one still at home, she was particularly close to her mother, Cathleen. During her freshman year, however, and heartbreakingly around the holidays, Giana’s world suddenly changed with the tragic, unexpected death of her beloved mother from an undiagnosed heart ailment.
Although her family was a great comfort to her, particularly her father who immediately assumed both parental roles, she was still trying to deal with such horrible grief as a teenager. She returned to school just a few days following her mother’s passing and naturally struggled with her emotions.
She states, “I was all emotion on the surface, boiling over. It was difficult for friends to understand what you are going through since they don’t have much experience with trauma and loss. It was hard for them to deal with such raw emotion. There never is a day you don’t feel sadness and confusion. It was very difficult for me.”
RBR students are most fortunate, however, that the school has a school based service program directly on their high school campus. The SOURCE, is staffed by licensed clinicians who are equipped to deal with sudden student tragedies such as Giana’s. She would visit clinician Stacy Liss who would talk to Giana and guide her offering professional support. Ms. Liss strongly recommended that Giana attend a grief support group at Common Ground in Manasquan. Taking up that suggestion, Giana attended a support group with peers who had also lost an immediate family member. She felt very comfortable there among others who shared her tragedy, but also appreciated the patience the group took with every participant.
She comments, “That opened me up and I began sharing my interests with the group. I became known as the writer of the group and was encouraged to submit a writing piece to a blog known as Children Grieve.org.”
She also began to grow and challenge herself academically and personally. She found the courage to pursue her original love of writing. She created a portfolio and successfully transferred into RBR’s VPA Academy as a creative writing major, where she is thriving. She was also recommended by Common Ground to present her writing at a major fundraiser for the organization. Earlier in this year, she appeared as one of three teenage panelists on a national webinar found at http://childrengrieve.org/teen-panel. In June, she will participate on a national panel for The National Alliance for Grieving Children which takes place in Oregon.
RBR Source Clinician Stacy Liss states of Giana, “Giana is a great example of someone who after a life changing event, such as the loss of a parent, begins to reflect on who she is and how she really would like to live her life. Giana demonstrated courage when she decided to pursue her passion for creative writing. She is an intelligent, sensitive and strong young woman!”
In the national webinar she was asked what it is teenagers most need from their peers.
She responded, “More so from friend then even adults, we need their patience. Most peers don’t grasp that grieving is a process that never ends but gets better.”
Giana has come to accept that suffering such a traumatic loss does not have to ill-affect the rest of your life, but can make you stronger. She hopes to go to college and study psychology or writing and states, “I want to get the most out of life.” She has devoted her time to helping others achieve the same.