When I first started out as a therapist working with children and families such as Dani's, who had experienced trauma, there were days that I wondered how I could ever cope with the devastating stories I heard each day. My heart broke open for the children, young adults, and families whose lives had been torn apart by grief.
A mentor shared her method of praying for each client after the session was over. She imagined placing them in a light, airy bubble and blowing them up, up, up into the sky, up into God's care.
Soon after I started implementing my own system of praying for and lifting up each and every client I encountered to God, because I knew that He is the only one perfectly capable of caring for, providing for, and carrying us through such loss. At times I had to send those prayer bubbles up right during a session, right when my heart was so cracked open by human pain and suffering that I needed to tap into God's own strength and grace in order to listen, love and help someone along on the journey of healing.
I should clarify that I was a therapist working for a secular organization, sometimes in public schools. Not a single person ever knew it, but the most powerful tool in my therapeutic arsenal was prayer. And I used it all the time.
There was the girl who came into my office the Monday morning after being raped over the weekend. "Lord, heal her from the inside out. You alone can show her how she is loved and valued. Help me find the words to comfort her in this moment."
Scotty told me he didn't have any safe place to go, no one to talk to, not a person who understood what it was like to miss his dad the way he did. "God, be the Father he needs. Guide me as I reach out to him."
Beatriz cried enormous tears as she shared of the abuse that had gone on for years in her home. She wondered aloud why anyone would hurt their own child. "Jesus, you died for this girl. Show her the life you have for her. Give her peace. Help me be a safe place for her."
Carrie was stone faced and said little. Her father had committed suicide in the workshop behind their house, and she had been the one to find him. "God, guide her out of the darkness. Hold her hand through this pain. Help her to find hope again."
Alliy was a girl who was loved. In her darkest moment of desperation she thought that jumping off a bridge was the only way out of her pain. "Oh, Father God, comfort this family. Surround them with your love. Provide peace in the midst of this most horrific storm."
Dani and I continued to meet throughout the school year and into the Summer. I got to know her family, three sisters and amazing mom. I listened through tears of the heartbreak they had endured watching the only man they loved--their husband and father--succumb to illness. We laughed as memories were shared. I prayed a lot for the strength to help carry this family and this special girl through the pain they were facing.
Eventually Dani moved out of that dark place of depression. She saw the community of support around her for the first time in months. She reached out to her mom and sisters in a new way. She stopped needing to write suicide plans because she knew that there was a way out. And that way out was love.
Join me in offering prayers not only for Alliy and her family, but for all the people in our community who are suffering through illness, despair, and darkness. Let us love each other well, because love is the way out.
*All names and identifying information has been changed. Stories have been altered.