The Worst Part of the Job

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is call my boss and tell him that one of our graduated students was missing. He was waiting for his flight to come back from a conference. I was a 22 year old, part-time, associate youth director and I was facing the worst fear of almost every youth worker: a missing student, and I was dealing with it without my supervisor and mentor.

Over the course of the hour and a half that he was on the plane, the police found her body. She left behind her family with 4 younger siblings, countless friends, and our church. I wasn’t certain what to do. I was away at my parents’ house and I was unable to return for a few days. The news wasn’t wide spread and it wasn’t my place to share.

I felt trapped. Completely and utterly stuck. Claustrophobic. I couldn’t get out fast enough. But there was no way to get out. There were no physical restrictions holding me in. Only the questions of why. And the anger and pain towards why it happened. I was lost and broken. My faith was rocked. I didn’t know what to think.

The thing they don’t tell you when you hear about a suicide, is how utterly useless you feel. There’s nothing you can do to make it better. There’s no man-made bandage big enough to cover the wounds. There’s nothing that can take away the heart wrenching moment of watching her parents in church, three days later, crying out to the Lord with everything in them just to find comfort in God’s embrace. No amount of preparing can make you ready to sit next to your students at a funeral and listen to her father and mother sing the worship lullaby that they sang over their daughter as a baby. There are no words to describe the ache that comes from leading your first youth group since she died and seeing the places where she used to sit and laugh and sing. There is no earthly comfort that can heal the pain.

Over and over I was reminded of the words from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. They led me back to Christ whenever I drifted into a dark place. They became my unceasing prayer. When words failed me, my Savior gave my heart the song to sing.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!

Over the first few hours, I went for a walk with my dog. I cried. I prayed. I worshiped. I mourned. I sat in silence. I asked God how such a beautiful spring day could bring so much pain. How such a bright light could be taken out of this world in just a blink of an eye. I blamed myself, my church, her family, her, and God. I yelled and screamed and sobbed and gave everything up. I hated myself for not knowing what to do.

Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:

I can’t even begin to try to wrap my head around all of the pain that our church went through. There was no way just one of us could try to handle it all. We had to give it up to Jesus. There was no other option to deal with our loss. His mercy and grace carried us through the moments that we couldn’t get through ourselves.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;

There are no answers for how to handle losing a student. There’s no one formula that gets everyone through the grief. I can’t give you a map on how to journey through it. I can only tell you that our Savior is there. He is waiting behind you with arms to welcome you in. He’ll catch you when you fall. And He’ll love you through it all.

Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it;

Seal it for Thy courts above.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

(Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson)

HERE ARE SOME RESOURCES:
Suicide hotline: 1-800-Suicide
Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS FROM BETHANY: youth directors are called to ministry; but after a tragedy you can be as devastated, if not more devastated, as your students. To be a vessel fit for service, it is best to take the time to meet with God so His spirit can flow through you, especially when it’s suicide. Please take some time to process and find comfort. Reach out for help. You are not alone. God is with you.

ABOUT BETHANY: Bethany is in her first full time call at Church of Our Saviour Episcopal in Jacksonville, Florida. She enjoys watching t.v. shows, visiting science and history museums, hanging out with puppies, and geeking-out over Marvel movies.

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