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