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"Weep With Those Who Weep": The Practical Do's & Don'ts of Ministering To The Bereaved

In a post entitled, “An Honest Inside Look at Grief – A Funeral Professional’s Personal Experience,” published in 2015 via LinkedIn, I shared the following regarding my own personal experience with grief and what I’ve learned about this life-altering journey:

There are many different sources of grief – loss of job/income, loss of a home, loss of good health, loss of relationship – by divorce and most definitively by physical death. The harshest reality about grief and the grieving process is that you never truly “get over” the loss and time doesn’t heal all wounds. My personal experience has been that instead, by God’s daily portion of grace, you learn to live with the loss – to gradually accept it and persevere. The consistent intensity of the feelings of loss will decrease. You will smile more, return to work, re-engage and seemingly be high functioning; but, the loss remains with you as you go about the life that did not get the memo to pause while your heart catches up... Thus, there are days and times you live with the loss much better than other days and times.

What I attempted to convey through the entirety of the aforementioned post, and what I regularly share in my one-on-one conversations regarding grief, is

grief can be likened to a long and arduous journey.

More often than not, there is an extended season during which grief can be all-encompassing; and, the specific duration of this season is different for each individual person. The bereaved painstakingly work to reinvest the emotion, previously devoted to the loved one lost, into new people and activities. However, this new investment should never be mistaken by others as a cure-all for the painful memory of the loved one lost – which often remains rooted within the conscious thought.

In Part I of this grief series, painted against the backdrop of John 11:1 – 46, there exists a clear picture of the inner struggle we will experience when confronted with death. Still, there is hope for every man/woman on this journey. That hope is you, it is me. By donning Christ-like traits – such as humility and an “other person” focus (Philippians 2:3 – 7), we can be a true source of comfort to our bereaved family and friends. For, in order to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15b), we must be prepared to “[bring our] whole self” [1] to the service of others.

Therefore, in the final half of this series on grief, I want to share the practical do’s and don’ts of ministering to the bereaved…

The Do’s:

1.) Show-Up. If possible, attend the funeral or memorial service. I know that since I originally published this article, we have succumbed to an international pandemic. Therefore, if this is not possible due to continued COVID-19 procedures & CDC guidelines – and whether you tune-in via virtually for the service or not

do more than send a text message. Please take the time to send a card with a personal, handwritten note of sympathy/support.

Given continued self-isolation practices, and its negative impact on mental health, receiving a card in the mail could mean all the world to someone experiencing the added dimension of bereavement.

2.) Check-In. After a week of needed recuperation following the service, check-in with the bereaved – call or, if/when it is advisable within the context of guidelines for gathering in a small group, visit.

3.) When you show-up before the scheduled service date or check-in after the service, be flexible.

Be observant of the person’s mood and prayerfully consider their immediate need(s).

Be prepared to offer the ministry of your presence. Be prepared to just sit quietly and hold their hand for as long as needed. [Again, you want to be mindful of the bereaved person’s possible preference for adherence to social distancing guidelines even during this difficult time.] Listen as they share precious memories of their loved one. Also,

be prepared to roll up your sleeves and work.

Sometimes, the bereaved won’t provide you with specific directions because they simply don’t know what they need. If they appear burnt-out and lethargic, then cover the individual with a blanket, don your face mask & gloves and go in the kitchen, fix dinner and wash dishes or a load of clothes. [Or, in light of COVID, fix the family dinner and leave it on their front porch.] Offer to watch the children of a widow /or widower who clearly needs to rest. Take out the trash, cut her lawn, fix her leaking faucet or hire a maintenance service to do so. Run errands. Offer to drive and accompany the individual to finalize personal affairs.

4.) Once we have recovered from the pandemic, or if you've both been vaccinated, do lean in for a hug. If it is uncomfortable, he/she will release you quickly. Appropriate human touch can be priceless and convey feelings words cannot. (Some will disagree with me, and that is okay. Certainly don’t do anything which is innately uncomfortable for you. As it won’t come across as authentic.)

PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR PART II of the “Weep With Those Who Weep:” The Practical Do’s & Don’ts of Ministering to the Bereaved, special grief series, as we continue this special grief series Sunday, 4.18.21…

[1] Reference to a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou from her book, Me & Mom & Me


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