Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Grief and Grieving, Part 1: Accompanying

Our church congregation has gone through a lot of losses: the deaths of loved ones; loss of health or mobility or strength; friends moving away or deciding to quit our fellowship for some other; and more. Lots of our friends have had losses too. Those losses cause pain, and the pain needs to be grieved. The biblical Job, for instance, needed to grieve (1:20) as does everyone who suffers any kind of loss. Even with the comfort of
the Holy Spirit, we will still feel the loss of human companionship, or of some other aspect of our lives. How can we deal with it? How can we accompany someone else who is on that journey of grieving? Let's look first of all at accompanying -- sitting with someone as he or she grieves.

Job's friends (Job 2:11-13) showed up to comfort and console him, and sat for seven days without saying anything. Of course, once Job started talking, they tried to find the cause of his problems, and the argument continued for quite awhile, with no real solution in sight. (Yes, there's much more to this book than that, but that observation is on the human-relationship level.) That brings us to our points on how to sit with someone who is grieving:

1. It's not about you, it's about the grieving person. You can't ease their suffering, only God can. You are there to accompany, or walk beside your grief-stricken brother or sister in Christ, humbly being the presence of Jesus to him or her.
2. Your job is to listen, not to give advice. So don't worry about coming up with something to say. Assume to start with, that anything you say will be taken the wrong way -- no matter how well you mean it. A better method of accompanying is to ask questions: "Is there something I can do to help?" "What would you like to talk about?" "Can I bring you something to eat, so you don't have to cook?" "Do you need any errands run, or something from a store?" or "Can you tell me something about your loved one?"
3. You may have to listen to a lot of stuff you don't particularly want to hear. You may even hear some of it more than once, as the grieving person goes over memories, regrets and worries. At that point, remember the first rule -- it's about the other person, not about you.
4. The grieving person will go through several stages of grief, not in any particular order, and sometimes more than one in a conversation. Don't worry about that, and especially don't try to tell the person "You shouldn't feel that way." This is the way people deal with grief, and they have to go through the process in order to completely grieve and heal the loss. If not, they never really resolve it and can be crippled from it. Remember the first rule! Your best gift is to continue to accompany the person through his or her grief, not correcting, not advising, just loving, listening and praying.

There's lots more, but these are the basics. We can serve a lot of different people -- not just from our church -- by acting as a comforter and companion in their time of loss.

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