What a privilege to stand by people who are grieving! In such poignant moments of loss, you have rich opportunities to share God's love and comfort. In those rare times, God can reach people who might otherwise be too busy, proud, or uninterested to respond to his love. In moments of broken-heartedness, people may turn to God in confusion, despair, loneliness, or pain. As a caregiver, you have the privilege of helping wounded people meet the God who alone can comfort them and give them peace - the God who loves and forgives them.
WORDS OF COMFORT
At some point in time, grief touches everyone of us. It is a time when we all need special help, comfort and guidance. But God has not left us helpless and hopeless.
With the assurance of God’s eternal Word, we are confident that death is only a temporary parting. One day we shall meet our loved ones again in heaven for eternity.
GOD KNOWS HOW YOU FEEL
When people experience loss, they are often distressed to find that they are numb, exhausted, confused, or feeling guilty about some aspect of their loss. They may be frightened or shocked at their own behavior and ask, "How could I, a faithful Christian, be angry and depressed about this?" Help them see that they are not only people of faith, they are also people with a wide range of God-given human emotions.
Jesus knows how they feel because he experienced all human emotions himself.
He wept with Mary and Martha when their brother (and his friend) Lazarus died (John 11:35)
He was angry when the Pharisees led people away from God (Matthew 23:1-36)
His tender heart compelled him to touch and heal people and to forgive their sins (Matthew 9:1-8)
God is not shocked or confused by the emotions surrounding grief and loss. God wants bereaved people to bring their emotions to him so that he can comfort and heal their hurting hearts.
REMEMBER THAT CHILDREN GRIEVE TOO
Imagine experiencing the same sadness, fear, anger, and other emotions that grieving adults feel, without having the vocabulary to express those feelings. Imagine that your limited exposure to life leaves you with little understanding of what is happening to you and that you feel that in some way you are to blame. This is the way most children process family losses, so be sure to give spiritual care and attention to children, especially after a death in the family.
THE GRIEF JOURNEY
Although many people would like a simple road map showing them the journey through grief, no such thing exists. Most of us would prefer to move in a linear, orderly fashion from loss and confusion to hope and recovery within a predictable time frame, yet each person's progression through the stages of grief (see below) is unique. After a person has passed through one stage and moved to the next, he or she may well revisit that earlier stage–once or several times. Completion of the process may seem unachievable. What is important is the direction: If there is any forward movement at all, the person is indeed moving toward recovery. Lastly, forget about a timetable: Grief takes as long as it takes.
Given this, here are some fairly common reactions to loss.
Shock, Denial, Numbness, and Disbelief
This is God's anaesthesia. People may describe the day they were fired or the day their house burned down by saying, "I was there, yet I really wasn't," or "It was like a dream."
When the reality of the loss begins to sink in, a person may try to reverse the loss by the force of his or her anger or by dramatically expressed grief. Such strong emotions may be directed toward God for seeming not to care, toward other people for their supposed negligence, or toward one's self for perceived wrongdoing.
Fear, Searching, Panic, and Guilt
As the truth of the loss begins to deepen, the bereaved person may continue to try to reverse the event by thinking, "if only I had (or hadn't)," and becoming obsessed with ideas about what might have prevented the loss. Accompanying this stage may be dreams about life before the loss or panic attacks that necessitate visits to a hospital emergency room.
Loneliness, Isolation, and Depression
As the irreversible nature of the loss becomes evident to the mourner, he or she becomes deeply sad, has little interest in social activity, and concludes that life will never be the same again.
The overwhelming sadness at this stage is actually the beginning of recovery. As it becomes evident to the mourner that what has been lost will never be recovered, energy previously spent in denying and resisting can be redirected toward rebuilding his or her life.
Re-entry, Rebuilding, and Reconciliation
At this stage, the mourner fully realises that what has been lost can never be recovered and that it is possible to live without what has been lost. The grieving person also begins to sense that he or she has learned and grown from the experience of loss. As hope is restored and life reaffirmed, he or she may want to serve others who have experienced a similar loss.
Adapted from 'Ministry Resources Guide'