As you are all likely now aware, tragedy has struck the Rudi family. In the wake of this very painful, very private matter there are several things we, as a church family, can do to help. First and foremost, PRAY. Pray for peace for Bruce, Carol and Stephanie. Pray also for God’s protection over the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of all who are affected by this tragedy, both within our church & school family and outside.
Second, please respect the Rudi’s boundaries during this initial phase of loss. In the coming days there will no doubt be a system set up for ministering to the family in a variety of ways. Though there may be an initial impulse to rush in to help, it may also be overwhelming to do so before we know exactly what the family wishes and coordinate appropriately.
Third, please respect the Rudi’s privacy by not posting messages on social media about the tragedy. In the world of instant information, the wrong messaging gets conveyed frequently. Even well-intended messages can be misread or misinterpreted, and can create difficult situations. Additionally, what each family shares with their children may differ greatly. Since many of us are connected through social media, children may learn of information that they are not ready for because of postings.
This brings us to a final point. Please talk to your children about the situation at a developmentally appropriate level. For the parents of children in 6th-8th grade, your children have already learned that Mr. and Mrs. Rudi’s daughter took her own life. For those parents of children in 4th grade, they were told that Mr. & Mrs. Rudi’s daughter died “suddenly and tragically” but not told how it happened. The important thing is how you now discuss this with them. Don’t avoid the topic, but don’t over discuss it either. It is far better for the older kids especially to hear straightforward and accurate information from a parent than to get their information from peers or fill in the gaps with what they think might have happened. If they ask you what happened specifically, be honest and tell them that you don’t know, because none of us know all the details. That is a really good time to share that it is a personal matter and it is not helpful or important to focus on these details. Instead, refocus them on praying for the family. This may also lead to a discussion about how important it is for them to be a good friend by taking it seriously and by talking to a trusted adult anytime someone says he or she wants to die.
A good rule no matter what age the child is to let the child lead and you follow. Some families may have already used the words “suicide” or “took her own life.” Especially in families where there is a 6th-8th grader, as well as a younger child, the chance of the younger children learning and then sharing this information with other younger children is increased. Follow the same logic you would use if a child started asking questions about sex that are not age-appropriate. Do not assume that children are looking for information at any certain depth. Ask what questions they may have before diving into lengthy explanations.
For those of you with younger children, they were not told how Bethany died. Some of them might not even be aware at this point that she died at all. Some of the children may want to know “how.” The younger a child is, the more important it is to be concrete about this matter. It would be very fair and accurate to say that Bethany died as the result of a sickness in her brain. If they ask you how she got sick, you can honestly say that you don’t know and leave it at that. It is important to emphasize that this is not the kind of sickness that you can catch from another person. This may be all the child needs to feel satisfied before turning the attention back on praying that God helps to comfort the Rudi family in their sadness.
We all are grieving deeply for the Rudi family, and we all are deeply concerned about the wellbeing of our entire church & school family in the midst of this tragedy. May we depend on and trust in our good and gracious heavenly Father to bring us all “the peace that passes all understanding.”