Our journeys begin in different ways.
Just as every birth story is unique, so, too, is every parent’s story of loss.
It may be a phone call or an officer at the front door. It may be a lingering illness or a sudden one. Our children may have lived days or decades.
Their death may be anticipated, but it is never expected.
And it is always devastating.
No one is prepared to bury their child.
But some of us have to.
In the best circumstances, loving well is a challenge. It requires commitment and energy when many of us feel like we are already running on empty. The challenges are magnified in the face of child loss.
Yet as members of the Body of Christ, our calling is to minister to, encourage, care for and walk with those among us who are grieving. And it is a daunting task.
If, as W.H. Auden said, “Death is the sound of distant thunder at a picnic”, then the death of a child is the sound of a tornado.
Compassion compels friends and family to reach out, but fear can constrain them.
“What do I say?” “What can I do?”
Unsure of the answer, they may say and do nothing.
Yet some friends and family dive in bravely and do everything they can to help parents face this awful reality. And I am certain so many more would come alongside, speaking courage and offering help if they knew more about what DOES help and what IS encouraging.
I have three goals for these next posts:
- To share the way many bereaved parents have been loved well by those they know.
- To encourage the members of the Body of Christ to reach out to anyone who has suffered loss and to give concrete ideas of how they can do that.
- To exhort pastors and other ministry leaders NOT to set up a PROGRAM but to create a NETWORK of individuals, gifted in mercy and willing to serve, who can be responsible for shepherding the members of a local body who have experienced the loss of a child.
I hope you will join me as I share from my own experience and the experience of other bereaved parents how the Body of Christ can minister to members who bear the pain of grief and loss.
Please don’t think that these suggestions are appropriate only for those who have lost a child or even only for those who have experienced grief associated with death.
Grief enters our lives in many forms: the end of a marriage, chronic disease, job loss, and any number of unexpected and often undesired life transitions.
Ministry begins with awareness. When we learn to see with the eyes of Jesus, we can become vessels through which His grace and compassion are poured out to others.
Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”
Tomorrow: Loving Well in the First Days
10 thoughts on “Loving Well: Meaningful Ministry to Grieving Parents”
This is such an important post, Melanie. The statement: “Their death may be anticipated, but it is never expected” exactly describes our losing Joel. His addiction illness spanned many years and while I knew death was always a possibility, I was certainly not prepared or expecting it.
And I cannot agree more about “programs.” We were encouraged to attend one at another church (because ours had NOTHING for grief) and it was AWFUL. The people facilitating had not lost a child – I’m not sure any of them had lost anyone close to them because they were very closed about their own experience. To make things worse, it was a long program and we had not yet developed our ability to walk away from things that weren’t helpful so we felt obligated to see it to the end. I was never so glad to say goodbye to a group that had never bonded. An opportunity lost for sure.
Since then we have developed a “tribe” of family members who understand our pain and we are able to both serve and be served but how I wish we had known earlier on.
Yes to all of t but especially yes to this.
“To exhort pastors and other ministry leaders NOT to set up a PROGRAM but to create a NETWORK of individuals, gifted in mercy and willing to serve, who can be responsible for shepherding the members of a local body who have experienced the loss of a child.”
We had lived in the Seattle area less than a year and aside from TCM or the occasional limited Griefshare, we have not found a faith based support group that we could attend together as a couple or even gender based. I have met women on my own that I have connected with, but it’s still not the same. I even inquired with a church ehise snall groups we were considering joining if they knew of anyone in the church that had experienced a similar type loss and was referred to their griefshare program. If the church leadership isn’t aware of their own that have lost children and utilizing Jen for ministry, how can those individuals, if willing, be a support to families in need? I do believe the church needs to be more proactive. We are not small in number. We feel very alone. This is a lonely experience if you aren’t in a committed community.
LikeLiked by 1 person
My typing was horrendous. I’m sorry.
I am so sorry. I know this is a common frustration and that’s why I feel so strongly about trying to get the word out to ministry leaders. The saddest part of it all is that there are most likely a number of congregants who have suffered child loss or pregnancy loss and would be wonderfully equipped to come alongside newly bereaved parents. But you’re right-there is either willing ignorance or lack of community in most churches so no one figures this out. I pray that the Lord directs you to a community where there are others who can walk alongside for the long haul. ❤
I read your post and have kept everyone since I found your blog. My name is Julie and I had planned to come this weekend but can’t . Please know your blog has helped me. I’m still a total mess but when it gets really hard I retread your posts. My daughter and granddaughter were more killed by her husband. Thank you for the hope you give
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m so sorry you won’t be able to come although I completely understand. It is very hard for me to make plans and harder still to follow through when anxiety and sorrow overwhelm me. You will be missed. If you would, please click on the “contact” button and email me. I would very much like to send you a couple things I made for each mama and will give them at the retreat. May you feel the Father’s loving arms around you right now and every day. ❤
How can I read your post I lost my son 30 days ago today and I am looking and reading or connecting. I am sad angry happy broken lost and lonely.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Patricia, I’m not sure I understand your comment. But if I’m figuring it out-you would like to sign up for the blog posts? If so, look on the right hand side of any post and you will see “follow by email” . Type in your email and they will come to your inbox every morning.
If you want to follow via Facebook then you can go to my own page where they are always set on “public” or to my public page: Heartache and Hope: Life after Losing a Child.
I am so very sorry for your pain and your loss. I pray you feel the Father’s loving arms around you even now. ❤