Grieving Takes Time

Me on the beach

Grieving Takes Time

I wrote a short essay about death and transition 367 days ago. My words were raw, but I wasn’t ready to share my thoughts publicly. It’s been a year. Grieving takes time.

How do you cope with grief? How do you help your students cope with grief?

Those questions were part of my dilemma. Read on, and know that today I’m in a much better place. I’ll close the blog with an update below.

Last Year – August 12, 2014:

I read scripture at memorial services for two of my former youth in the last couple of months. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Both were in their 20s. Both deaths happened too soon – one was due to an accident and the other was due to an illness. It was after each of these services that I broke down – when I remembered spending weeks with them on mission trips and Sundays with them at youth group.

Losses like these usually don’t hit me hard until after the fact. I like to be a helpful and calming presence when I’m visiting with families and friends – even in a hospital room or in a home experiencing crisis. I’m used to pushing aside my own feelings of loss to care for those around me. It’s not easy, but it’s a skill that I learned over the years in ministry.

This (last) spring, as Youth Ministry Institute Midwest ramped up, I transitioned from being a paid youth minister to a volunteer. Once again, I pushed aside my own feelings until long after the fact. I love building relationships with young people on retreats and deepening those relationships each week with spiritual and formational programming. How will that change, now that I’m a volunteer?

I finally realized this week that once again I was dealing with the grief of saying goodbye to my youth group. My sadness about losing two former students accentuated my grief.

Jesus teaches us that he is with us “until the end of the age,” even as he transitioned from human life to eternal life. His model for ministry is hard to live up to, isn’t it?

Today – August 14, 2015:

It’s been a year. If I were to rewrite my closing words I would choose Romans 8:38–39 instead of Matthew 28, for “nothing will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Yes, Jesus is with us “to the end of the age,” but Jesus teaches more than just ministry of presence. It is His love that sustains us; His grace that heals us.

I still think about those two young adults and I pray for their families. I think it was harder to grieve alone, without the presence of my youth group every week to share grace and support. Grieving takes time.

I’ve made the transition from paid youth ministry to being a volunteer. It turned out to be a great adjustment, but it took some time to accept. Grieving takes time.

My wife and I both volunteer in our youth group – she volunteers almost every week and I’ve helped out with mission days, a lock-in, and a retreat. It’s a good thing. Now we both are active in our church’s youth group. We are grateful for the opportunity, especially since our oldest son is in 8th grade. It’s been a blast for us to be a part of a ministry that gives life.

It took time to move forward. It took time to heal from the loss of my former students. It took time to love new opportunities.

Today I love my job. I love being a volunteer. I love seeing my son thrive in his youth group, and hearing about my wife’s experiences as a volunteer.

Yes, grieving takes time. I thank God for healing grace.

– Matt Vaughan, regional director, YMI Midwest

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