I have thought a lot about how I would write this post. It has been a sad weekend for me. My professional role is a school counselor. I spend many of my days resolving conflicts between adolescent girls, helping teens research careers, choose classes, facilitating contact between our career center and the school where I work, and a variety of other calls that come in on a daily basis. Usually, it is a great job filled with thousands of rewards. I get to see growth in my students-academically and emotionally-each and every year. I wouldn't trade this career for anything.
However, when the crises come, they aren't little and they aren't easy. They leave us with the wind knocked out of our sails, and grasping at straws for answers. You expect that it will happen-the tragedy of youth cannot escape you-but when it does, it is never easy, even though you may have experienced it before, if it is a situation where you could have prepared for it, or where it is out of the blue. When a tragedy strikes your teens, it cuts to the quick and all the counseling skills in the world aren't enough.
Friday morning I was startled out of my post-slumber stupor by a phone call that rocked my world. We had lost an eighth grade student unexpectedly. It was a tragic death that no one saw coming. I went through my own ribbon of emotions of shock, sadness, sobs, grief, anger, and then the professional began to take over at 5:30 in the morning. The gears began to shift as I started to see the faces of my students in front of my face. I knew I couldn't afford to be a mess for them. It is a tenuous thing, grief, for me. I'm an all or nothing kind of person. If I allowed myself to fully immerse into my emotions I would have been no good to my students and staff that day. So, I plowed full speed ahead into the business of managing a crisis in a school. For those of you who don't know what it is to do so, I pray you never do. Explaining death to multiple teenagers with searching eyes is the most painful thing I have ever done. Simply put, you cannot explain why a friend who was there yesterday is not today. There are no answers. There is no balm to ease what they feel. All you can do is hold hands, pat backs, give hugs, give all the love you have to your kids.
After we put somber kids on buses and into cars for the ride home I put away the tools of crisis management-tissue boxes, markers, paper, bottled water and granola bars. I straightened up my office, returned calls from the other school counselors offering their support, put my coat on, grabbed my bag and climbed into my car to go get my own child and head home. I spent my weekend resting, celebrating my mom's birthday as they visited from out of town, and watching snow pile up outside our windows. Today, I will put my work clothes back on and drive to a funeral home to hug children again, hold hands of parents who don't understand why this has happened, and wish I had the words of wisdom that will never come. Yes, I love my job, but this is the part that chips away at my heart and leaves me with scars that I will remember always.