What do you know about suicide? One young man just took his life in my area and a girl I was talking to until about 11 last night told me how she had tried to last year. Do you know of some good resources that can be given to kids after they've had to experience someone else's suicide? Do you have some good proactive stuff on the subject? Thanks.
Michael, Martin County YFC
Years ago I volunteered at a youth ministry in which the youth pastor's 15-yr old brother committed suicide. I'm so sorry for your loss and for such complex, sad circumstances under which to minister to family and friends. Thank God you're willing to do just that.
Years ago I conducted a brief telephone interview with a youth leader named Dale who specializes in helping kids cope in crisis. Here’s an excerpt from that interview—I think you'll find his thoughts as helpful as I did.
6-19-06 telephone interview with Dale Kuglin, B.A.Y. Ministries Director, www.bayministries.org about helping kids cope with tragedy and grief.
The way a person deals with grief is as common as a hand, but as individual as a fingerprint.
When dealing with a group that's dealing with grief, it's important to validate every single emotion and not to condescend or belittle one kid’s expression of grief over another's. They don't want to be considered a freak for what they feel.
I say three primary things when addressing groups of students coping with grief:
- The emotions you feel are real; don't deny them.
- Your emotions are God-given, so don't refuse them.
- You will go through the five stages of grief. It's important to let yourself process these stages.
It's important for the youth worker to recognize how death may affect different students. For some, Jane Doe's death may affect them because they grew up with her. So all of a sudden Jane Doe is their best friend. For another kid, who really didn't know Jane Doe, they're affected because a grandparent died a few months prior. For even a third student, who also has no emotional attachment to Jane Doe, they may be affected because there was some kind of trauma or separation that happened (could have been the loss of a pet, a family crisis or divorce). In other words, the current tragedy you're trying to help kids process could bring up something totally separate but deeply affecting.If you have any more questions, you can contact him through his web site. I know he'll be glad to correspond with you.
One of the best little resources I've seen in the past year is Emergency Response Handbook for Youth Ministry
. I think it's a very good resource for both pastoral and lay leaders.
Youth Specialties also has two great books on the subject of helping kids in Crisis: Help, My Kids Are Hurting
, and The Youth Worker’s Guide to Teenagers in Crisis
That is not to ignore Chap Clarks incredible book about today’s kids hurting in general—appropriately named, HURT
Here are some discussion ideas related to death and coping with crisis, as well as the topic of "legacy," which I think can be powerful after kids have dealt with a crisis in their community...they're open to thinking about eternal things:
- Pop on our web site www.thesource4ym.com and scroll to the top of the page where it reads FREE RESOURCES & IDEAS, click on CURRICULUM & JUMPSTARTERS, then choose the topic OUTREACH AGENDAS. There's one called Legacy. And while it isn't geared for kids coping directly with the death of a friend, again, it could be a good discussion to have while this tragedy is fresh in their minds. Once you read through it, I'm sure you'll discern when the time is right to do this with your students.
- Another "coping" discussion is called Trusting God in Tough Times. This particular talk is on the SPIRITUAL GROWTH page (another page on the CURRICULUM & JUMPSTATERS page). It talks about dealing with tragedy. You could change some of the questions to fit your specific situation.
- Another great place for discussion ideas is on our MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS page. If you click on this page and then scroll down to the last category, When Life Stinks. You'll find several movie illustrations for this topic that you could, again, tweak to fit your specific situation. They almost all include discussion questions and corresponding verses.
Michael, we hope these ideas help. We are sorry for your loss. Some of us affiliated with The Source have walked through the death and grieving of a student. It's never an easy time, but always one in which God can minister to kids, as well as youth leaders. I pray that He does both for you.
Danette Matty, Resource Correspondent
The Source for Youth Ministry