A crisis plan developed by guidance counselors in Prince William County to help students cope with tragedy is in effect this week at Stonewall Jackson High School after the deaths of two students and a recent graduate in four days last week.

Three deaths in a row are "very difficult for kids to comprehend," said Principal Michael Campbell. " . . . Young people believe that they're invulnerable."

"This is the first time most of them have experienced a death up close," added William Wood, director of guidance at the 1,900-student school near Manassas.

Two of the deaths occurred Sept. 22.

Kimberly Ann Lynch, 19, a 1986 graduate who had friends in the junior and senior classes, died of bone cancer at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, and Chris McGreavey, a 17-year-old senior, died at Children's Hospital of a cerebral hemorrhage. McGreavey, who wrestled and played football at Stonewall Jackson, had collapsed at school the previous Friday.

The third student, Carlos Calo Garcia, 16, a junior, collapsed at a party Friday night and died a few hours later at Prince William Hospital.

Officials are awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Campbell described all three students as well known and well liked.

Students interviewed off-campus yesterday described the atmosphere at Stonewall Jackson as gloomy.

"Nobody wants to do anything," said junior Diana Burks, 16. "Nobody knows how to handle it. Everything happened so quick."

Burks said that when she learned there had been a third death, "I didn't want to know who it was. I'm not one of those people who can handle death."

According to Wood, the school's crisis plan, developed last spring, aims at helping students talk with counselors about their feelings of grief and frustration.

The school's six-member guidance department swung into action Sept. 22 when word came of McGreavey's and Lynch's deaths. Two of the county's 17 school psychologists were placed on standby at Stonewall Jackson and counselors at other schools were alerted that they might be called on.

"We met with faculty and asked teachers to be on the lookout for kids who obviously needed to talk. We put counselors in every one of Chris McGreavey's classes," Wood said.

Students wanting assistance were advised to go to the guidance office in small groups.

Nearly 70 participated that day, and more than 30 did so on Monday of this week, after Garcia's death.

When a young person dies, "it often instills a feeling that the world is out of control," said Peter Sheras, president of the Virginia Psychological Association and a specialist in adolescent and family counseling at the University of Virginia Institute of Clinical Psychology.

Feelings of helplessness often lead to depression, he said.

"The worst thing {for a student} is to sit around and feel that there's nothing you can do," Sheras said.

"What counseling tries to guard against is internalization of feelings. When feelings are held inside they can come out in destructive ways . . . . With teen-agers, the culture encourages them not to show their feelings."

Principal Campbell said his students "have been terrific.

"The biggest thing we're dealing with here is the realization of mortality. I'm mostly concerned with the emotional stability of the school," Campbell said.

Campbell said he is more worried about the boys because they "tend to hold {their emotions} in. That isn't healthy."

"People are real confused," Jodi Darby, a 16-year-old junior who knew all three of the students, said yesterday. "It reminds you that not just old people die."

All of Prince William's school guidance counselors were trained in crisis intervention by school psychologists last year, according to William Connelly, who coordinates the psychologists.

Connelly said he and another psychologist have taken turns being at Stonewall Jackson in the last week. "If a guidance counselor gets into a situation over their heads, they can ask us for help," he said.

Teachers have also tried to help.

English teacher Ed Lawrence had a class in session when McGreavey's death was announced.

"Several students left for the guidance office," he said. "I let the others do reflective writing. Some chose to write about Chris."

Staff writer Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.