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Grieving begins,but questions remain in apparent murder-suicide

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In the week since San Luis Obispo police were called to the scene of an apparent murder-suicide at the home of a local psychiatrist, they've remained close-lipped about exactly that they think happened while the community has made some steps toward healing.

At Bishop's Peak Elementary, second grade students were mourning the death of a classmate, 7-year-old Olivia Rivard, who was found dead along with her mother and father.

Hospice of San Luis Obispo County offered crisis response counseling sessions in an effort to help students, parents, and teachers deal with the heartache brought on by the untimely death.

"It's very difficult for students to deal with grief and loss," said Margaret Bullock, the counseling program coordinator for Hospice of SLO County. "This was a process to get people to really feel their feelings as opposed to stuffing those feelings down and pretending nothing happened."

Bullock said grief can express itself physically--it can have negative effects on short-term memory, the ability to concentrate, and may cause loss of appetite.

According to Mary Kay Stratton, a counselor for Bishop's Peak Elementary, the therapy sessions were beneficial for everyone involved.

"It was a great outlet," she said. "It gave students the ability to express themselves. There's still a great sense of shock and loss here, but they're holding it together. The lesson is each day you get a little stronger and you just keep moving forward."

On the morning of Oct. 3, Olivia and her parents, John and Barbara, were found dead in their home on 1770 Frambuesa St. in an upscale San Luis Obispo neighborhood.

According to a recent San Luis Obispo Police Department press release, John, 48, shot and killed himself while on the phone to emergency dispatchers.

When officers arrived, they found the cell phone on John's chest. It still had a live connection to dispatchers. A .357-caliber revolver was in his hand. John Rivard legally purchased the firearm in 1997 from a North Carolina gun shop, according to a release. Police said the same handgun was used in all three deaths.

Additional forensic testing is being done to accurately establish the sequence of events that took place in the Rivard home.

"So much of it is a mystery," said SLO Police Department Capt. Dan Blanke. "But the horrific nature of what occurred speaks for itself. You've got a very grisly set of circumstances. Any time something like this involves children, it becomes more sensitive. It kicks it up to another level in terms of emotion."

Bishop's Peak Elementary's Stratton, meanwhile, said

that Olivia's loss would be felt forever.

"Olivia is someone we will never forget," she said. "She'll be in our hearts always."

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