Saturday, November 1

Walking With Others Through Storms

There have been joys this week in my 2nd grader's grand performance as an evil stepsister in their class version of Cinderella, dressing up with the kids for Halloween, and using our fireplace for the first time this fall. This is a period, though, marked with great loss and sadness. Heartache has come in many forms for my friends and family this week:

Family having to unexpectedly move from their home.

A friend leaving her ministry & dream because of the sin of another.

The baby of friends having to endure medical procedures in anticipation of an upcoming traumatic surgery.

An entire region losing an institution that serves as a cornerstone; friends losing their home, college & stability; friends anticipating being unemployed.

A sweet, adorable little friend beginning the fight with a terrible disease.

A friend losing her sister in an unexpected death.

It is often hard to know how to minister to people who are experiencing grief and loss, especially when their hurt cuts deeply into your own heart. With good intentions, people often say hurtful things. Or out of fear of saying something wrong, some say nothing at all. Here are some ideas for ministry to those whose who are hurting.

  • acknowledge the pain or loss with a card, call, or letter (which can be re-read during hard times).
  • make specific offers for assistance (e.g. picking up groceries while you're at the store, helping write a resume, or taking the kids for an evening).
  • be supportive of the difficult decisions they are making.
  • pray. Telling someone that you are praying for them is another way of saying you care.
  • tell them that they are doing a good job managing their situation.
  • feel free to cry with the person.
  • simply say "I am so sorry."
  • allow them to talk about their situation at their own pace. Be a good listener.
  • simply sit with the person or offer some other action of support like a hug or squeeze of the arm. Words are not always necessary.
  • remember painful holidays.
  • remember that the pain will likely be long-lasting and nothing you say will make the pain go away.
  • avoid the person because you don't know what to say.
  • say "I know how you feel". This time is about the other person, not about you.
  • tell depressing stories, even if they relate to the loss.
  • say "It's God's will" or "It's a good thing" or "You can [have another child, go on to another ministry, go to a different college]".
  • say "Don't cry" or "Be brave" or "You are so strong", which may cause the person to repress their feelings. They likely do not feel strong or brave.
  • blame or say things that might be construed as blame.
  • use platitudes or cliches, such as "Time heals all wounds" or "Everything will be o.k." It most definitely does not feel like things will be o.k. They need to be given the permission and space to grieve.
Let's all take a deep breath, praise the Lord for today, and walk hand in hand through these difficult times.

[some of these ideas come from Delores Kuenning's "Helping People Through Grief"]


shauna Wagner said...

Thank you! I often feel like I struggle in these situations. I think satan uses the awkwardness and silence to his advantage.
Thanks again- shauna wagner

K y m m said...

AMEN!! YES! EXACTLY! Let's Listen Closely! You need to write a pamphlet or teach a seminar or... this is a subject not talked about enough in the church! Thanks!