It hurts! Pastor urges persons comforting the bereaved to be careful of words they use
When death has come and taken our loved ones
It leaves our home so lonely and drear
And then do we wonder why others prosper
Living so wicked year after year
- From the hymn Farther Along
At some point or another we all have to deal with a death in the family, and the level of comfort and support is what sees us through the grieving process.
But it is not a job that many well-intentioned persons handle with the right amount of tact.
Often, trite clichÈs such as 'He is in no more pain', 'Remember you have others to live for', 'Don't send up your blood pressure!' are used in an attempt to comfort those who are grieving. However, they often end up saying the wrong things and causing the person dealing with grief to be even more upset.
Family and Religion checked in with the Reverend Gifton Wallace of Fire Baptised Holiness Church of God in Harmony Hall, St Mary, who described dealing with the death of a loved one as one of life's most painful experiences, pointing out that it brings with it a kind of finality and causes one to experience inexplicable emptiness, sorrow, and grief.
"The pain of death and grief cut across the grain of social, ethnic, political, and religious barriers as the effects are always the same, and whether it is a sudden death or a seemingly progressive, inevitable one, when it does happen, it leaves the family members with a great sense of loss," said Wallace.
Sharing about the grieving process, he said comforters should understand that there are five stages that must be experienced: denial - this is not happening; anger - and this anger, he said, can take many formats. It can be directed at persons who they believe caused or could have prevented the death; anger at themselves if they believe they did not do enough to prevent same; anger at the deceased if they believe that the individual has contributed to his death; and even anger at God for not coming through, whether by way of healing, protection, or prevention. The other three stages are bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
During the grieving process, Wallace says, the support system needs to be extra special and supersensitive.
"Persons coming to give support should understand that the grieving persons are in 'another world', and what become necessary is their presence and not necessarily their preaching."
For Wallace, many persons grieving would much rather a quick or prolonged embrace and the assurance that they have your prayers and support than a lot of talking.
He said visitors should try and avoid utterances such as "I understand", "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh", "Stop crying now", and "Don't distress yourself because you have your life to live", etc.
Wallace also pointed out that one must understand that there is no fixed timing on the grieving period, and that family members will grieve differently, and so utmost respect must be given and each person be viewed as an individual and be ministered to the dictates of their situation.
During the waiting period leading up to the thanksgiving service and burial, he said, different mood swings will be experienced, and sometimes there is laughter at the funny things that were done or said by the deceased. There will also be periods of silence, sadness, and tears, among other emotional responses.
But it will be 'reality time' and distress will be experienced on funeral day as this serves to confirm that the passing of the loved one is indeed a reality and seeing the deceased will come to an end that day.
"Prayers, embraces, words of assurance are pluses in that situation. It would also be necessary for the person delivering the sermon to be cognisant of the fact that there is a group of persons, called 'the bereaved', who must be included and encouraged during the deliberation," he said.
Unfortunately, according to Wallace, while many support the grieving leading up to the day of the funeral, after that, they are left alone when they need support the most.
"While prayers, the comfort from scriptures, and the presence of friends are important during this period, it is also very important to seek medical attention should that become necessary," he said.
For Wallace, many grieving persons have been known to suffer serious medical consequences, especially when the death is sudden, tragic, or untimely.
"Also, family members need to be extra sensitive to the needs of each other, eliminate any act of selfishness with regard to programme or legacy, methodology of grieving, as without warning, tempers can flare, causing further pain and distress. They should, however, grieve with the consciousness that whatever they are going through, God still loves and cares for them and He will always be there."