Shared grief is yet another attribute of small towns

BurkheadImageUseThisOneWhen news spread of the Jan. 19 accident involving two children, one who later died, the community grieved, right along with the family.
Shared grief is common, especially in smaller communities, said Margot Robb, program coordinator in Meeker for Colorado West Regional Mental Health, which also has an office in Rangely.
“All communities can be impacted by tragic events, as we have seen with the recent death of a young child,” Robb said. “In small, close-knit communities, where you know people on a more personal level — grew up together, taught the child, was the doctor to the child, attended the same rec center, go to the same church — the tragedy seems to reach more people, as it might not in a large city. Also, when a death is unexpected and, especially if it is a child, the grief can be more intense.
“Small communities grieve together, but the crisis also creates a greater sense of unity and resiliency in towns like ours. Sudden unexpected losses and the death of young children often become even more difficult for people as a whole. In Rio Blanco County, I have witnessed several times over people pulling together to support the family and friends of people who have lost a loved one. I don’t know if that is any different than a large community, but the support is more visible.”
Shared grief, Robb said, is an effective way to deal with feelings of loss.
“The more people talk to each other and express their feelings and emotions, the faster they can heal,” Robb said. “People can be very resilient when tragedy occurs, and one thing that can help is to reach out and help the family who suffered the loss. Making dinners, raising money, sending cards, letting them know you care, can be helpful for all.
“When someone dies, it often brings up our own mortality and our own fears of losing someone we love, resulting in increased anxiety and stress,” Robb continued. “The depth of grief people experience is based on a lot of factors, such as how close they were to the person, did they see the accident, does it remind them of other deaths they have lived through, therefore triggering more grief.”
People who are grieving go through stages: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. Grief also affects people differently.
“People work through their grief at different rates and may go through several of these stages several different times as they remember or are reminded of the loss they experienced. There is no right or wrong time frame or way to grieve. When someone we love and care about dies, it can feel overwhelming; it is a universal part of our humanity, and reaching out and talking about your feelings can be a very powerful way to heal.
“It is always important to allow people who are hurting to talk without feeling judged or without feeling as if the person they are talking to feels they have to fix the way they feel; we just need to listen. Validation of feelings and listening are the best gifts you can give to a hurting friend. Let the people who are hurting know you care and don’t forget about them in the months following the death. That is when they may need more support and may begin to talk more openly about the loved one they lost.”
Classmates of the children involved in the accident can also be profoundly affected by the loss of one of their fellow students, as in the death of 9-year-old Stone Martin, who was a fourth-grader at Meeker Elementary School. His older sister, Alahna, 12, who sustained serious injuries and is still hospitalized in Denver, is a sixth-grader at Barone Middle School.
“The schools pooled the resources of not only their counselors, but the mental health team (from Colorado West) as well,” Robb said. “The emergency and medical staff that witnessed the aftermath of the accident often need debriefing to prevent second trauma — common in accidents like this one.”
Robb said her office “has seen an increase in people in crisis since the accident.” Common symptoms of grief include: sleeplessness, lack of concentration, nausea, crying, irritability, demanding behaviors, fear and anxiety, nightmares, sadness, sweating, numbness, withdrawing and, in children, clinging behaviors.
“If these symptoms become worse over time, rather than better, seek professional help,” Robb said. “A licensed mental health professional will assist people in developing a plan for moving forward. Seek out a support group with others who may be experiencing a similar experience. Keep physically active and know that grief is like a roller coaster, some days are better than others, and that is OK.”
• • • • •
Agents with the criminal investigation unit of the Internal Revenue Service returned last week to the home of Sharon Briggs of Rangely.
“I can’t disclose the details of the return visit,” said special agent Bryan Thiel, public information officer for the IRS criminal investigation unit in Denver. “After a search warrant, agents often have follow-up items to clarify with occupants of a location.”
Briggs is the target of an IRS criminal investigation. Her home was originally searched Jan. 14. Agents returned again Jan. 26.
“To increase the intimidation, two agents made me sit on the sofa and they watched me non-stop all the time they were there, they never took their eyes off of me,” Briggs said of the initial search. “It was a big display of intimidation and harassment. A number of my rights were violated — they even made me sit all that time dressed only in my bathrobe with all those men around me.”
In the search warrant, the lead investigator said, “… there is probable cause to believe that the residence of Sharon Briggs … contains evidence of false claims of withholding of taxes … and violations of aiding or assisting in the preparation of false or fraudulent income tax returns …”
In response, Briggs said, “Anyone who has ever interacted with the IRS realizes that their viewpoints on what one has or has not done gets very tainted. Things are most often not what they are attempting to make them out to be.”
Briggs added, “They don’t like the way I’ve filed their own 1099 forms and are seeking to make a mountain out of a mole hill. If we aren’t supposed to use their forms, then why do they put them on their Web site for us?”
Since the Jan. 14 search of her house on Main Street in Rangely, Briggs said she “has been working to secure the return of over 80 items, which were unauthorized, and not listed on the search warrant. Some of those items included family pictures, two Staples rebate checks and a passport.
“The unauthorized removal of these items is in reality, theft. I have every right to file criminal charges against them. I’m still working to find out what all is really missing that wasn’t authorized,” Briggs said.
• • • • •
Kaylena Randall is coming home.
Randall, a 2001 graduate of Meeker High School, will be in town this week as part of a nonprofit program called Team Nutrition. Randall, president of the area chapter of the Colorado School Nutrition Association, will make presentations at Meeker Elementary School, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
“We’ll do each grade, one at a time,” Randall said. “So it will be a day-long thing.”
Accompanying her will be Tammy Kirby, president of the Mesa County chapter.
Randall, who grew up in Meeker, said she’s looking forward to returning.
“I’m excited to get back and give back to my community,” she said.
Randall said the purpose of the program is to “help kids make healthy choices, whether at school or at home.”
Local restaurants as well as the Meeker Recreation and Park District are joining Team Nutrition to help promote kids making healthy choices.
• • • • •
Nate Bradfield, a senior at Meeker High School, was listed Jan. 20 as one of 17 Colorado students nominated “to the nation’s esteemed U.S. military service academies,” announced by Congressman John Salazar.
Bradfield was nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
• • • • •
The growing season is still a ways off, but folks in Rangely are discussing the possibility of starting a community garden. Phyllis Henley is one of the people behind the idea. She can be contacted at
• • • • •
I recently received a message from someone asking me why I was listed as a “fan” of the Herald Times’ Facebook page.
“Is it not repetitive to be a fan of your own newspaper? Isn’t it kind of a given?” the writer asked.
It may be, but I’m proud to join Travis Mobley, Naomi Etchart, Cheri Smith, Ann Marie Scritchfield, Chris Hejl, Megan Ridings, Gidget Jones, Dessa Watson, Iris Franklin, Dusti Rose, Tracy Enterline, Carla Slagle, Whitney Chumacero, Liz Turner, Linda Blagg, Stephanie Hogan, Paul Purkey, Abby Welle … and the other 250 plus Facebook fans of the newspaper.
Want to join, too? Go to and click on “The Herald Times on Facebook,” in the upper right corner of the home page.
… and you can add your name, along with others like Gary Hicken, Luke Schafer, Deena Norell, Rosalie Coombs, Suzan Dole Pelloni …

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at


  1. Your article about shared grief in a small town was wonderful. I was gladdened to see something in the paper this week about people who aren’t the self chosen “important people” of this little town. Most of the time people reading this paper who do not live here would think only a few families live here and go to special events or have something “noteworthy” to write about. I was thinking as I read this article (I never start reading the paper from the front page) Maybe this paper is actually worth reading. (Even though you took out what happened 100 years ago; mistake on your part) Then I turn to the “headliners” and wham!. There you go shoveling in dirt on a family that would never EVER do anything like that to you, much less think about shoveling dirt in your face. Maybe people from the “big city” like to read this kind of garbage but the majority of people in this small town DO NOT! You should be ashamed of writing about The Martin’s personal trials!. Especially after the horrible few weeks they have been going through! You should be ashamed of even THINKING of writing this garbage!. You can rest assured I’ll never read your paper again Mr. Editor . I’m not even going to subject my fire place to it by using it to start a fire.

  2. Hi Ms. Posey.
    We appreciate your comments. The events around the loss of the Martin’s son have been sad for all in the community. We likely would not have reported the domestic violence call made by Vanessa had it not happened a couple of hours before the accident. As Paul noted, it’s part of the events of the difficult day. We certainly don’t relish reporting things like that.

    Let’s all continue to pray for the family during this difficult time.


    PS: We still do print the “days gone by” from 100 and 50 years ago in both our print and online editions.

  3. I have to agree with Edye it was simply mean small town behavior on the papers part. Praying is fine but possibly some compassion is called for as well…….

Comments are closed.