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HELP A HURTING PASTOR
MINISTER TO THE GRIEVING
CARE FOR PERSONS IN CRISIS
MINISTER TO LOST A LOVED ONE
HOW TO MAKE WISE DECISIONS
MANAGE CONFLICT IN A CHURCH
RESPOND OFFENDING BROTHER
TEACH LIFESTYLE STEWARDSHIP
HOW TO DEAL WITH CRITICISM
NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
HOW TO MANAGE STRESS
HOW TO USE TIME WISELY
GET ALONG WITH MEMBERS
OVERCOME DISCOURAGEMENT
EVANGELISTIC INVITATION
CONDUCT A COMMITTE
RECOVER FROM BURNOUT
LORD'S SUPPER OBSERVANCE
HOW TO PERFORM A WEDDING
HOW TO BAPTIZE
CONDUCT A FUNERAL
HOW TO DELEGATE
IT IS TIME TO LEAVE
PASTOR AND HIS SERMON
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How to Minister to People Who Are Grieving

The death of a loved one is not the only reason people grieve. The death of a meaningful relationship can also cause significant grief. Sometimes a treasured relationship is lost because of a misunderstanding. A grieving person may find himself pretending it didn't happen, experiencing anger because it happened, and then becoming depressed.
Persons also grieve when their marriage is dissolved through divorce. In this imperfect world the biblical ideal of marriage (one man and one woman for a lifetime) fails. I've know churches that grieved when they lost a pastor that most folks were glad to see go! People grieve the loss of imperfect relationships.
People grieve the loss of dreams. A person puts his or her whole life into starting a business only to have it fail. Grief is sure to follow. Parents have high hopes for a child only to see that child destroyed through some action.

The Stages of Grief

Grief is not predictable. Each person grieves in his own way. Persons who have studied grief do see some common elements to grieving. Granger Westberg, in his classic Good Grief, listed 10 stages of grieving:
Stage 1.— We are in a state of shock/denial. "It can't be."
Stage 2.— We express emotion/release (tears).
Stage 3.— We feel depressed and lonely. "No one understands."
Stage 4.— We may experience physical symptoms of distress. "I can't go on."
Stage 5.— We may become panicky. "I can't make it."
Stage 6.— We feel a sense of guilt about the loss. "If only I...." or, "Why didn't I?"

Stage 7.— We are filled with hostility and resentment. "Why me?"
Stage 8.— We are unable to return to usual activities. "I don't want to go out."
Stage 9.— Gradually hope comes through. "Someday—maybe."
Stage 10.— We struggle to readjust to reality. "I'll get on with it."
Grievers do not move through these stages in a linear fashion. That is, they do not finish stage 1 and progress to stage 2. Rather, they may be in shock/denial in this moment, but one hour later they're in stage 10, adjusting to the reality of life. Grievers bounce back and forth through the various stages of grief.

Three Practical Questions

How long does grief take to finish its course?— Getting over grief can take as long as one to three years. Often in ministry to grieving persons, pastors try to rush the grief process along (probably out of their own discomfort).
What should you say to someone who has sustained a significant loss?—The best answer is, very little. Your presence (both physically and emotionally) is far more likely to be remembered than what you say.
How can you minister to grieving persons?
Admit to yourself that you are a griever. Look honestly at what scares you about grief.
Be more willing to listen to the griever than to tell him what he ought to do.
Be concrete in your ministry to persons in the throes of grief.
Be willing to back off and let your relationship with the grieving person return to normal as she adjusts to her loss.
(Adapted,  Granger Westberg, Good Grief (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971)

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