Handling Grief – Yours and Those You Love
As a pastor, you have the unique opportunity of sharing life’s greatest moments with your church family- Births, weddings, graduations, anniversaries, countless birthday celebrations…. You are one of the smiling faces in the framed picture on the mantel, posing with the bride and groom in their photo album or holding the newest member of your congregation on an Instagram photo. This is one of the great blessings of being a pastor. It’s called, “Doing life together.”
But as a pastor, you are also invited to be a part of your church family’s darkest moments. The moments no one takes a photo of… The moments you don’t want to remember, but will never forget. The days that require you to fully exercise your faith and trust in God. It’s in these times that I often search desperately for the “right words” to say even though I know – there are no “right words.”
This week our church family at Oasis Church has experienced one of those days…
Three days ago, we lost a beautiful member of our church family. She was a wife, mom, daughter, sister and our friend. I have known her since she was 16 years old. I’ve watched her grow up in our church over the last 24 years; getting married and becoming an amazing mother. My heart aches at the thought of not seeing her this Sunday. Words are not enough to communicate how much she will be missed.
It is difficult to know how to respond when tragedy hits. The fog of grief sets in, and emotions run high. I want to encourage those who are living out one of life’s darker moments with three things that can help see you or your friends through these times.
1. Find comfort in community.
When you find yourself in one of those dark days, don’t walk it alone. You will get lost. Surround yourself with safe people who can grieve with you, wipe your tears and extend their hands to help you back up. When people offer their help, say yes.
By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
One person is great. Can you round up a third? Three is even better.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Eccl 4:12 NIV
If you are the one offering comfort to someone else who is hurting, your presence, when invited, is more significant that any answers you can offer. Just being there to listen or hold their hand, can be the greatest comfort you can offer. No one ever said to me, “When I was hurting, you gave me the perfect answers I needed to hear.” I have heard, “Thank you for being there with me.”
2. Seek God, not information.
When tragedy strikes, it’s natural to want to know why. If we hear of something bad that is happening, we want details. This can just make things darker.
The most helpful reaction is to turn your attention to God, ask for His help. You don’t have to “try to be strong” – you can rest in His strength. He will be strong for you.
In times of loss, try hard to think of the best memories, and not dwell on the tragedy. In times of heartbreak or disappointment, think about the ways that God has provided in the past. Rarely do more details bring comfort or healing to your grieving soul.
Even in the area of social media, sometimes people are unaware of the negative impact of information that they post online. In the same way that seeking information does not bring healing neither does sharing news online help bring comfort to those who are grieving.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 4:8 NLT
There is nothing worthy of praise in what happened this week, but what is worthy of praise is the life that was lived. What is worthy of praise is the promise God has given of us. Heaven is a real place, and we will see our friend again.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.- Colossians 3:1 NLT
3. Pray. Talk to God.
Keep a dialogue going. Even if all you can say is “Please help me Father.” Talk to him, even if you are mad or hurting. “God this is so painful, I’m so angry. I don’t understand why this happened?” God can take it.
He will be there and show Himself strong. On your dark days, you will always have a choice – run to God or from God. Run to Him, He is a comforter.
For the Lord does not abandon anyone … he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love.”
Lamentations 3:22-26; 31-32 (NLT)
Even though you may not feel it, this scripture is true-
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NLT)
How have you handled grief?