Sometimes as faith-filled believers we can be horrible at letting people grieve. When a person loses a relationship, or a job, or has someone close to them pass away it starts a chain reaction of heavy emotions that can be difficult to process. Any situation that creates a sense of loss also creates the need for people to grieve. If we’re not careful, we can be tempted to immediately jump in with clichés and all the perfect scriptures to tell people how they should feel and what they should do. This is not helpful.
In the past couple of weeks, we’ve actually had several people in our small group experience the death of a family member. As a Small Group Leader I want to ask you: Are you equipped to minister to a member of your small group in this situation? What do you say? What do you do?
Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, A time to mourn and a time to dance…” Romans 12:15 says that we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” Those aren’t scripture verses to quote to people who are grieving, rather they are a guide for us who are near them. Below are 8 Ways To Help People Grieve as a Small Group Leader…
1. Understand the Stages of Grief – It’s common for people suffering loss to experience these stages. They won’t necessarily go through them in order and often people will repeat different stages. The 5 Stages of Grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Each of them are healthy to processing some form of loss. Sometimes we can be comforting someone while we too are impacted by the same loss. Understanding these for ourselves and others can equip us to navigate such times.
2. Be the Initiator – Some people naturally reach out to those close to them, but many don’t. If you know a person is isolating themselves, initiate the contact with them to give opportunity for discussion. This also lets them know someone cares.
3. Listen, Listen and Listen – More than anything, people need someone who will listen and allow them to express what they are feeling inside. Great listeners can be great ministers. The more people can process this way the greater chance they have not to get stuck on one of the stages for long periods of time.
4. Don’t Judge Their Raw Emotions – Repeat after me: Let them grieve.
5. Provide Care - Sometimes it helps just to be present. In other situations it’s helpful to organize meals for the person in need. Ask your small group to see who would be interested in helping. If you’re not sure what to do simply ask the person what they need.
6. Continue To Check In On Them – Once the initial outpouring of love runs it’s course, everyone moves on with their lives and generally forget to follow-up in the future weeks and months. Be the person that does follow-up. Your thoughtfulness will communicate the kind of love that will be appreciated.
7. Be Patient – It may take longer for a person to grieve than you or even they themselves expect. Allow them to feel their feelings are still valid even if it’s been some time.
8. Approach Each Person Individually – If you’ve helped people grieve in the past, try not to develop a cookie-cutter approach for the next person. Every person and every situation is unique and requires sensitivity to the specific needs that are there. Make sure you respond to different people differently.
Remember, loss is one of the most difficult things for people to process. As a Small Group Leader, you and your small group are strategically positioned to play a vital role in supporting someone when they need it most.
Photo Credit: NeilsPhotography