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HELP A HURTING PASTOR
MINISTER TO THE GRIEVING
CARE FOR PERSONS IN CRISIS
MINISTER TO LOST A LOVED ONE
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How to Minister to People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Death

In a recent presentation a pastor described how he and his family were sheltered in the arms of God during the loss of their teenage granddaughter. During this time of incredible personal loss and grief, my friend learned some important lessons about ministering to others in times of grief. I asked him to write down a few of the lessons he learned during this pilgrimage. The following is adapted from his notes, and I added a few ideas of my own.

Be there with the family. 
Your personal presence is important. If a family ever needs their pastor, they need him now. A phone call isn't sufficient. Unless you are in a very large church, no staff member can represent you in this circumstance. Spend time with the grieving family.

Offer to help with necessary funeral arrangements. You are a professional. This family may have no idea how to plan a service. They may need your help in relating to the funeral home.
Don't use trite religious statements. Scripture is comforting. The Holy Spirit can comfort in ways we don't even understand. But trite statements about how we should really be happy because our loved one is with the Lord are inappropriate. The Scripture is true. If the one who has died was a believer, he or she is in heaven and with the Lord. This truth, however, does not remove the genuine pain of missing a loved one we won't see again until we die or the Lord returns. To suggest that Christians should not grieve is inappropriate and unscriptural (see 1 Thes. 4:13). We sorrow, but not as those who have no hope.
Hug a lot. Human touch is therapeutic. It shows your concern and sensitivity. Be sure your hug is appropriate, and express your genuine concern. In some instances an appropriate hand on the shoulder or a warm handshake is best.

Allow people to grieve in their own way.
Some people are quiet; others are expressive. Don't try to analyze, just love them and be there for them. Some people need to cry. Let them. Others need to talk. Listen. Some just need someone to sit with them in silence.

Be prepared to be silent.
You may not need to say very much. You should pray with them and be ready to share appropriate and comforting Scriptures. But don't feel that your words should make the pain go away. The best ministry may be to sit in silence with them.
Mobilize the church to help in any possible way. The home may need cleaning or straightening. Child care may help. Food may allow the family freedom from day-to-day tasks such as cooking for the family.
Relate to the family one month after the funeral. Pastoral ministry may be needed most at this time. All the friends and relatives are gone back home. Life is supposed to have returned to normal. People expect more recovery than is possible. During those quiet, lonely moments, the grieving person may need you.

Send notes of encouragement at six months.
Writing a note will only take you a few moments, but it may be an enormous benefit to a grieving church member.
Be available to listen anytime. Let the bereaved talk.

(Adapted, John W. Drakeford and Claude V. King, WiseCounsel: Skills for Lay Counseling. (Nashville: LifeWay Press , 1988).

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