I recently wrote to two of our pastors who were trying to care for our congregation after another pastor in the local community had ended his life through suicide. Sadness and disbelief had been running high. Their job is so hard.
I wrote this to follow up with them on some mutual work and to say, “I see you” there in the trenches, you are not alone.
My Dear Friends,
The job you do is so important, so passionate and likely so tiring for both you and your family members (to be sure). As counselors and pastors, we engage in a type of work called "Emotional Labor.” I first heard this term at a time when I needed to understand why I was feeling so run down.
A kind and tenderhearted friend had stopped by to help me clean out my garage and as we worked and visited I spoke fondly of my job and also expressed concern for the ones among my clients who struggled with wanting to take their own lives. As he continued sorting through the shelves and boxes he said, ‘You know, I've heard that doing the type of work you do can be so tiring. Just three hours of counseling the troubled people you work with is equal to about six or eight hours of physical labor.’
I don't know where he got his stats from but in that moment, I felt so "Seen" by him as I was in a particularly heavy season where many of my patients were grappling with strong urges to end their lives and I was sitting with them through their dark experience. My patient's heaviness had been wearing on me (as can happen sometimes) and it was hard to put into words what it was like to be the hand holding onto the one who teeters on the edge of annihilation almost every day.
As his words soaked into my soul I could feel my heart begin to rise and re-gain its strength. I felt a sense of KNOWING come from him that few others could offer. His words affirmed the importance of my work. Of me. So, for both of you today, may you know that I SEE you and am indeed here for you as you labor.