Grief is a delicate and individualistic process. In a moment, the loss of a loved one creates a pivotal shift and brings with it a “new normal” that can be difficult to grasp. The Bible tells us that we have the gift as Christians to not grieve like the rest of the world grieves. To find solace in this knowledge, however, is difficult when grief is raw.
Whether you’re a pastor, team leader, or fellow attendee, you may feel called to comfort a church member after a loss, but unsure of how to do so properly. Here are a few ways that you can support a member of your church in their time of grieving.
Often the greatest comfort to a Christian in mourning is God’s word. Whether it’s the American Standard Version, King James Version, or an EVS bible, it’s filled with alleviation. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 says that we believe in Christ’s resurrection and, in turn, believe that He will bring those who fall asleep to live with Him. When the time comes, God will call those who have died to Him before bringing those who remain. Our life here is merely a temporary residence. These sets of verses end by saying that we should comfort one another with this reminder. Paul is encouraging his fellow Christians to take the promises of God and use them as words of reassurance and consolation.
John Chapter 16 is another beacon of hope for those who grieve. In these verses, Jesus tells his disciples that following him will undoubtedly lead to suffering and judgment. This pain and persecution, however, pales in comparison to the joy that comes when we spend eternity with him. When we express condolences we often go for the standard “at least they’re no longer suffering.” To be a Christian means taking that from a surface-level to a deeper understanding. Not only are they no longer in earthly pain, but they’re also living in the abundance of Christ’s blessings. What greater comfort is there than to picture your beloved in the arms of Jesus?
Grief can be isolating and painfully lonely. Does your church offer grief counseling, bible study, or support groups specifically for loss and mourners? Do you have resources in place for families and individuals to utilize? Something as simple as a grief team that coordinates meal trains and childcare can make a world of difference.
Consider hiring discipleship and spiritual care pastors whose roles have the functional equivalence of a counselor but from a Christian perspective. They’ll be responsible for connecting your church members to counselors and guiding them through events such as funerals and memorials. Take the next step by having your pastors walk mourners through the cremation process, burial arrangements, funeral service, or memorials.
If you’re a fellow attendee looking to care for a mourner, offer to accompany them to the crematorium, funeral home, or cemetery as moral support. Aside from the standard outreach of meals, flowers, and cards, a mourner often just needs companionship. Simply being a peaceful presence can take a weight off a family member’s shoulders during a chaotic time.
Most importantly, pray for—and with— your mourning brother or sister. To be a Christian is to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the lives of others. We were not made to go through life alone; We are called to fellowship and community. We know that prayer and intercession are direct ties to God and can be the thing most needed in times of hurt and despair. Come around your hurting brothers and sisters in the community and be the strength and compassion that they need.