How We Heal

A Look Inside How the BC Community is Handling Grief and Tragedy, Together


Sienna Sullivan

Junior Garrett Estep performed a set list of songs requested by a well-attended BC student audience at the Sharing Your Love for BC event on Friday, Feb. 11.

Sienna Sullivan, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, Va. – After the events of Feb.1, the students, faculty and staff of Bridgewater College came together with the community at large to strategize the first steps towards healing. 

“I am fortunate to remain connected to a very caring and responsive group of mental health experts in our area,” said Neal Rittenhouse, associate dean of students for health and wellness about Student Life and BC’s health team’s decision to broadcast a call for help to the community. “Within a matter of hours after the shooting, a group of approximately 15 experts in mental health arrived at the Forrer Learning Commons, organized and ready to assist any member of the community who needed it.”

According to Rittenhouse, clinical and academic staff from both JMU and EMU responded immediately along with members of Valley Community Services Board. 

“The response was so robust that it allowed us to provide a more substantial mental health presence for our campus community over a longer period of time,” said Rittenhouse.  

Both the services provided and the feeling of support from the wider community has been instrumental in the healing process for many students.

“No matter where I go, there’s just so much support and love for our BC family, even from other communities and schools throughout Virginia,” said junior Ann Marie Johnson. “It’s definitely given me hope that we can get through these tough times.”  

In addition to grief counseling and other mental health services, BC Student Life has sponsored several gatherings including a Sharing Your Love for BC event held on Feb. 11. 

“We had planned this event earlier this year and after everything happened we weren’t sure if we should still do it,” said junior Garrett Estep who performed live music at the event. “We decided we should still do it and thought it would be a good time for people to come together and relax and celebrate love and community.” 

The next steps in healing for the BC community lies in embracing community love and support through the remainder of the semester and beyond.

“A very human reaction to a traumatic event like this is to want to erase it or somehow excise that terrible day from the body of our community,” said Rittenhouse. “The disappointing reality is that we can’t do that. That event has been woven into the fabric of our institution. The good and empowering news is that we get to sew even more love, support, resilience and the strength of the BC Community into that fabric as well.”