“God said, ‘It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.'” I’m sure you’ve read this verse before. I know I’ve read it time and time again. But now that my wife has passed away, I read this verse differently. I’ve come to know personally what it means to be alone. It stinks. It’s something I would not wish on anyone. So, the reason for this post is to remind pastors of the impact losing a long-term partner has on a person. Being alone, after a long-term relationship with a spouse, is unlike anything other kind of loneliness. So, what should you do when a parishioner loses a long-term loved one?
- First and foremost, keep in mind that being alone isn’t what God meant for most of us.
- Keep in mind that often the stress on a caregiver can be catastrophic and someone should check in on them regularly. I only went through 15 months of caregiving. I can’t imagine the pain of someone who has to go through it on a regular basis. Have someone on your staff to be there for them the first few days if they want it. It’s not enough to just take them food or send them a card. Someone needs to take the person under their wing and provide them with companionship. It doesn’t have to in person. I have a good friend who lives in Pennsylvania who calls me each week just to say he is thinking about me.
- As soon as you learn of the loss, provide the person a good print or digital book on dealing with loss. Remember, not all of your parishioners have had your experience with death and grief. This may be their first experience with death and they may not have a clue how to handle it. I had helped many people through the death process, but it’s not the same until it’s your loved one. So the next time you do a funeral or respond to a death, don’t look at it as just another day.
- Have grief groups available for them to help them deal with the loss constructively. Have a system in place that identifies the need and invites the person into a group.
- If they are retired, provide projects they can become involved in, because having little or nothing to do can be debilitating.
I hope these periodic posts about the loss of my wife will help pastors understand what people go through with the loss of a loved one and how to effectively respond.
Question: What do you believe are the best ways to respond to another person’s loss? Share your opinions in the Comments section below.