Friday, May 25, 2012

Good Grief

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.  1 Thessalonians 4:13

Allow me to interrupt our already over-scheduled lives to talk about death. With Memorial Day Weekend approaching, where we honor the men and woman who died protecting our freedom, it is amazing the denial in all of us around the fact that we are all in the process of dying.
I believe it is this denial which creates a tension for us all when we minister to people in our community who are grieving a death.  Below are some guidelines I adapted from a blog that will equip us all with good grief.
Don’t start any sentence with “At least. . . .”
“At least he’s in heaven now.” • "At least you have two other children." • "At least it didn't have to go through the pain of birth." • "At least you've had a good life so far.”
Don’t attempt to minimize the other person’s pain.
 "It's okay, there’ll be other children." • “Are you better now?”
Don’t try to explain what God is doing behind the scenes.  
“I guess God knew you were ready to handle this" “God must have needed her in heaven!” • "Just look ahead because God is pruning you for great works."
"God will make you stronger through this.”
Don’t burden the person:
“If you had more faith, your daughter would be healed.”
You are not praying hard enough. "Maybe God is punishing you.” • "Oh, you're not going to let this get you down, are you?" (Meaning: just go on without dealing with it.)

Don’t compare what the other person is going through to your death story: "It's not as bad as that time I . . ."
Don’t use the word “should”:
"You should be happy/grateful that God is refining you."

Don’t use clichés and platitudes:
"Look on the bright side." Hes in a better place. Shes an angel now. (NO! People and angels are two different created kinds! People do not get turned into angels when they die.) Hes with the Lord.

Don’t instruct the person:
“This is sent for your own good, and you need to embrace it to get all the benefit out of it.”
Remember that God is in control. Remember, all things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 is powerful to comfort oneself, but it can feel like being bludgeoned when it comes from anyone else.)
Do remember the “Ministry of Presence”:
Just showing up is an amazing ministry to people.  You don’t need the right words; your presence is a ministry.
Be authentic:
Even saying, “I have no idea what to say; I am so sorry” can be so healing. Be yourself.
Be prayerful:
Don’t just say, “I will pray for you.” Pray with people, read a verse that God brings to mind. (Start with Psalm 23)
Do validate the deceased person:
Over time, share a memory or ask about a memory.  To not mention a person, as right as it seems, may actually have the opposite affect.
I am sure you can add more, but I want us to be a sensitive community that practices good grief! This weekend, we get back into Following in the Dust of the Rabbi and the Gospel of Luke. We will be in Luke 7:11-17 and get a front row seat of what Jesus thinks of death. We have a great weekend planned, and I look forward to experiencing it with you.
I love being your pastor!