I’ve been in full-time, vocational ministry for the last ten years. During this ten years, I’ve been much more active in the full scope of ministry than I was in my earlier stint (also almost 10 years). One of the things I’ve done much more of is officiating funerals. During this time, I’ve learned to how to grieve with those who are dealing with grief.
Within a church setting, funerals tend to happen in waves. In a week, we’ll have 2-3 funerals and then nothing for months. We are currently in one of those waves. I personally officiated several funerals a month ago. Over the course of these last few years, I’ve learned quite a bit about ministering to families during times of heartache.
Here are a few tips when you walk with people through heartache and pain.
1. Match the energy not the emotion of grief
The very first and most important principle is one Solomon writes about in Proverbs and again mirrors in Ecclesiastes. This is what Solomon writes in Proverbs:
“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.” -Proverbs 25:20 NLT
This may seem like common sense, but it actually is difficult to remember in the moment. Our natural bent is to be happy in times of emotional struggle, especially when we ourselves are not personally attached to the pain. When you encounter someone with a heavy heart – in the midst of loss – match their energy.
You probably can’t match their emotion, but you can mirror the energy they are displaying.
2. Remember the good times at the right time
Most likely, the energy will shift as the conversation progresses. They will remember the good times and positive things about the person or thing lost. Tears often turn to laughter, but that is their choice as to when and how to enter into those memories. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything in life.
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 NLT
3. Embrace the silence of grief
When someone has lost someone or something important to them, the time is to grieve with them, but it can also be a time to help them remember, cry and laugh. It can also be a time to simply be silent. In the book of Job, we find the best thing his friends do for him after he loses everything important to him (short his life) is sit with him in silence.
4. Love well
Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us this,
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” -Romans 12:9-10 NLT
I would argue grieving with someone is one of the most genuine ways to love someone. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. Grief is hard work. Honor those who have lost with your quiet care.
May you love well.