“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
As I have mentioned before, Sunday School/small group bible studies are as concerned about care for their members as they are sharing God’s Word. My uncle Johnny passed away Saturday morning, and I was reminded of the need to show care. He was a Christian example and leaved a good life we can celebrate, but it doesn’t mean we don’t grieve. Persons need to know we care for them to trust us enough to hear what we have to share. During times of grief is an important time to show care. Here are some practical ideas for classes to show care during times of grief:
Your presence is more important than what you say. Often we feel inept in knowing what to say to someone grieving. Keep in mind you do not need perfect words. What is important is holding their hand, listening as they share their pain and memories. A simple prayer for comfort and strength at the end of the visit may be enough words. (In times of tragedy, words can actually cause people to go away from God if we are not careful- See the blog: Helping Children Deal with Tragedy.)
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15 NIV)
Familiarize yourself with the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Read the classic book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross “On Death and Dying” or search a website that deals with the stages of grief. Take notes on the material, and think about a time in your life when you have lost a loved one. Keep a journal. Revisit the feelings of the experience. This will help you empathize with the grieving family members.
Grief lasts longer than the funeral. We who have experienced loss know this to be true. Too often, the church is there for the initial grief through the funeral. A grieving person, after the funeral and loved ones go back to their normal routine, can be some of the most lonely and painful times. Call to check on the person. Offer to take them for coffee or lunch to check on them. Don’t pressure them to return to a normal routine, but be there to help them along the way. Help them to find a grief support group in the community as well.
Provide other support throughout the grieving process. Some grieving persons find it difficult to do the normal household duties and tending to basic meals. The church usually rallies the first few days to provide meals. Have different ones in the class volunteer for the first couple of weeks to provide meals and help with any household duties and yard work after the funeral. Think about practical ways to help at the time of the death instead of food. Provide trash bags, paper plates, utensils, napkins/paper towels and toilet paper. A grieving person often has many family members and friends coming to visit during the initial grief. Often person al items like the ones above are not thought about. Other practical ways of caring for weeks to come:
Prayer is more important than anything! Pray each week for the class member. If someone in your class dies, keep their name on the attendance roll/ministry care list for six months. Every time you go through the list of names, you will be reminded to pray for the family.
Send signed cards from class members to let them know you are still praying.
Have someone call each week to check on them and discover other needs.
Have members willing to help the deceased write thank you notes for persons helping with needs during their grief.
If you take seriously the caring of prospects and members of your class, you may discover you have learned more about what it means to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”