Helping With GriefWhether expected or not, a loved one’s death can cause both physical and emotional upheavals. Besides dealing with legal and financial matters, family members must adjust to a new reality without the deceased individual. That can include a collection of powerful and sometimes contradictory feelings, with some potential crises of faith. In these times, a minister can provide practical, pastoral, and emotional support to help bereaved family members cope with their loss.

An Immediate Response Is Crucial

Most pastoral care resources emphasize the need for immediate action when a death occurs. A minister may be asked to come to the hospital or home to accompany the individual’s family. If the dying person is awake and cognitively aware, a minister can offer comfort, rituals, or even just a listening ear. Pastoral care in these scenarios also typically includes scheduling a visit with the deceased’s family members.

Classroom.com contributor Dell Markey stresses the importance of identifying with a family’s grief and letting them know you’re there to support them. Listening to them is key, but the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church also suggests taking notes during your initial meeting. You may or may not be helping them plan the funeral during this first visit, but these notes can prove to be useful. You could refer to them if you’re speaking at or presiding over the service, or they can help you stay on track as you deliver ministerial care.

Planning the Funeral or Memorial

The Universal Life Church Monastery mentions that ministers must correctly determine what the deceased person’s family wants in a final service. Depending on their preferences, you may be asked to deliver a eulogy, perform a full funeral, or preside over memorial services. Moreover, the event could take place in a funeral home, house of worship, cemetery, or another appropriate location. Regardless of how the event takes place, you’ll need some basic information to help the family plan:

  • The deceased’s name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Basic family information (parents, siblings, and children)
  • Career or life’s work
  • What gave them joy: hobbies, accomplishments, relationships
  • Personality details

Keep in mind that the family may want a service that’s religious, secular, or a combination of both. The ULC’s funeral guide mentions common religious components such as scripture readings or specific rites. Humanist funerals can incorporate short readings, a short speech of tribute, and a quiet moment for reflection followed by closing remarks.

Support After the Funeral

In his Classroom piece, Markey reminds readers that it can take time for people to process their grief. For that reason, they may require more support in the weeks after a funeral or memorial service than before. Markey recommends reconnecting and visiting with the family during this time period, listening to them and providing comfort. Additionally, you can offer grief counseling if you’re trained in its methods. If not, you may wish to receive education and certification. The American Academy of Grief Counseling’s programs are available to ordained ministers, pastoral counselors, licensed therapists, and others in the caring professions.

Preparation, Listening, and Empathy Are Vital

Death can sometimes be anticipated, especially with old age or an extended illness. Yet more often than not, it comes suddenly as an unforeseen illness, accident, act of violence, or suicide. Family members frequently reach out to ministers both as sources of support and for their pastoral abilities to conduct funerals or memorial services. While many families rely on clergy from their own faiths, Universal Life Church ministers could find themselves called upon to supply comfort, perform funerals, and possibly provide grief counseling. For those reasons, it’s important for ministers to be prepared to deliver these critical services.

Category: Funeral Loss

Universal Life Church funeral Grief family

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