It has been a tough week with some moments of joy and some challenging times of sorrow.
Tonight I get to read Scripture in the wedding of a Bethel grad who is also a good friend. That is a high! On the other hand two people I care about deeply are battling serious cancer. And we lost Kaitlin Beske. These are deep lows. Her loss is real, no matter how much or how little you knew her. The impact on family and friends is huge. Even those who did not know her well feel the sense of loss. I feel it too as my tears will tell you.
When things are tough, being surrounded by the Bethel community really matters to me. We carry each other along and rest in the reality of God’s grace. We know of others who are hurting very deeply – and some of you know stories of others students struggling in special ways right now. Our team is working with all those we know about. As we do this, we work with family and friends, trying to respect their privacy and trying to aid in a process that brings healing.
Earlier this week the presidents and spouses of the Christian College Consortium were on campus. On Monday morning as we gathered, I told them about Kaitlin’s passing. From coast to coast, others are praying for us. Our neighbor down the street, Northwestern College, sent us a bouquet and a note of care. I had planned to do a devotional entitled, “Can I Ever Be Good Enough?” I felt this question strongly in college—painfully at times. And as I shared my story, I was surprised to see how many of the presidents responded to it—they felt it now even though they were in very successful positions. It reminds me that there is a battle going on in each of our lives. We feel torn between who we think we are and who we think we should be. The Evil One wants us to live in shame, guilt, and inadequacy. By contrast, Jesus wants us to live in grace. He loved us so much that he was willing to die for us so that we might experience his grace. The battle is real and there are times when we are particularly vulnerable.
Each person responds to loss differently. For some who are distant from the person lost, the impact can be very little. Others feel it deeply and respond with anger, denial, fear, guilt, or other feelings that are very typical and normal. Emotions are often triggered that link to past loss, fear of losing someone, or personal vulnerability.
I encourage you to grieve in ways that reflect your wiring—this is not a one size fits all thing. Acknowledge what you are feeling. Seek friends, find alone time, cry, be angry, read Scripture, pray—whatever helps. Reach out for help. There are great resources at Bethel: Counseling Services, Residence Life, Campus Ministries, faculty, Student Life, and others. They have done a magnificent job in responding. As you are ready, move back toward normal—but let’s be sure to extend grace to each other.
Be ready to act. Tell someone you care for them. Talk to Jesus. Look out for each other. As they say at the airport, “If you see something, say something.”
It is better to err on the side of reaching out than to stay uninvolved. Don’t be afraid to say things like, “I may be crazy, but I’m concerned about you,” or “You look down. Can I help?” In some situations where you are really concerned, don’t hesitate to ask, “Are you thinking of hurting yourself?”
If you feel vulnerable, reach out for help—don’t wait.
We are working with Kaitlin’s family about a memorial time on campus, perhaps next week. We are in this together—and it is the time to help each other along in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Students and employees: if you would like additional resources on processing grief, information is available in the offices of Student Life and Campus Ministries.