Counseling the Grief-Stricken

By Evelyn Watkins

     Counseling church members begins with helping those members to feel open enough to share his or her issues. In this new age of social media, pastors can use their social media platforms to let members know and understand he or she is not on an island all on his or her own. This is important for the member to grasp because sometimes the member may not want to open up about what he or she is struggling with in person.

     Once the members see their pastor on social media tweeting and posting about different topics that may be something he or she is struggling with, it helps the individual understand and know that it is possible and okay to struggle. It is normal to have struggles and as pastors, it is our responsibility to make sure that the members know that. It can be difficult for a member to approach a pastor with his or her issues. 

     To be more specific, in struggles related to death and dying, it is important for those members who have lost a loved one to know that there is no time limit on mourning. Grief has no end date. The death of someone never fits into the survivors lives and never makes sense because the family member is so used to him or her being there. 

     Many people while grieving honor his or her loved ones in the best way he or she knows.  If honoring him or her means living your life to the fullest then the survivor may do that for him or her. Let the family member know whatever his or her thing is that he or she wants to do to honor the family member who has passed on is okay. It will also help in the family member’s grieving process. There is no wrong way or right way to grieve.

     The fact that there are other ways to stay in touch with church members through social media opens a door for dialogue about topics that can be discussed and lets the church member know that it is okay to discuss them. Using social media breaks barriers and lets church members know what he or she is going through is something that happens to us all. This can also be applied to times when a church member knows someone who is sick. When church members have family members or someone close to them who is sick, the emotions he or she might be experiencing are completely normal.

     It is always difficult to watch someone you love go through a very rough or hard road. However, this is something that can be effectively explained to church members and letting them know that the emotions he or she is feeling are definitely something he or she has to go through. This is something that will continue to be a part of the psyche until grief or emotions are dealt with. It is important that the member knows to give themselves time to heal through whatever turmoil he or she is going through.

     In counseling members of the church, always make sure to let him or her know your door is always open. It’s okay to ask for help, and the issues that he or she may be experiencing are issues that at least one other person has felt before in his or her life. The idea of making sure that there is a good level of comfort present is always important. It helps the member be as comfortable and reassured as possible that he or she will be understood and listened to. This always helps with the healing process as it relates to anyone feeling understood and listened to. Those two things are key.

     When church members come to you let them know that regardless of their pain, God is always there.  Psalm 46: 1-3 states, 

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” 

No matter the issue, God has it already in His hands. God is working it out already. God will always beat us to the solutions because this entity knows the issues before we do. So leaning on and counting on the entity that is God is always the best thing to do when one doesn’t know what to do. It is important that the individual knows God is already working it out.  This is something that you can always ground members in.

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