All posts tagged Grief

“I Wish I Could Go To Sleep Before Thanksgiving and Wake Up After New Years”

Many people share this testimony. If you do, know that you are not alone and that God longs to give you words and His companionship in the midst of this experience. What follows is a sample of God concerns for you might look and sound like and is rooted largely in Psalm 88.

This is a dark Psalm, but only one among many dark Psalms. Again, God knew we would need many expressions for the suffering we face in a fallen world. To help u see this, read Psalm 88 – the “black hole” of dark Psalms. Read it slowly and let it have its full impact. The only hope in this Psalm is that is it addressed to God. For a moment, let the cynicism of the questions grip you; let the fruitless search for answers swallow you.

Psalm 88

1O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
2Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.  Selah
8You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you?  Selah
11Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

An alternate translation of that final phrase could be “darkness has become my only companion (see ESV footnote).” Where is the hope in this? What are we supposed to take from such a grim passage? Paul Tripp answers this way:

Psalm 88 gives us hope in our grief precisely because it has no hope in it! It means that God understands the darkness we face. He is right there in it with us, “an ever-present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). The Lord of light is your friend in darkness. The Lord of life stands beside you in death. The Lord of hope is your companion in your despair. The Prince of Peace supports you when no peace can be found. The God of all comfort waits faithfully near you. The Source of all joy is close by when death has robbed you of joy.[1]

God invites us to come to Him in all of our brokenness even before we attempt to “put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” Our Messiah is one who, “was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). In these Psalms we get a picture of deep the incarnation went into our world of suffering and how uncomfortably close we must be willing to our friend’s suffering if we are going to counseling in a way that reflects the personal touch of the Gospel.

If this is your experience at this time of year, you might also find encouragement in my post “Gospel-Driven Counseling for Suffering (Psalm 102)” a free audio download of a sermon on God’s identification with and comfort for our suffering.


[1] Paul David Tripp, Grief: Finding Hope Again (Greensboro, N.C.: New Growth Press, 2004), 5.

Brief Video Sample from New Grief Share Curriculum

This video was created by GriefShare to allow you to get to know each of their new contributors more personally and gain a better understanding of the resource they provide.

I am excited to have contributed to the new GriefShare curriculum and hope this post allows my readers to become familiar with this and other excellent resources from Church Initiative.

GriefShare Expert Brad Hambrick from Church Initiative on Vimeo.

Learning to Grieve Losses Not Caused by Death

Note: This post is an excerpt from the seminar notebook that will accompany the “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” seminar at The Summit Church.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Please invite anyone you believe would benefit from learning how the God of all comfort speaks to the various losses of life through the gospel.

Appendix B
Applying the Grief Seminar to Losses Not Caused by Death

Often it can be hard to recognize grief as grief, because of the absence of a death. Major losses can be caused by many other life changes than someone dying. But this difficulty goes well beyond the challenge of rightly labeling an experience. When we do not recognize the grief element in a major loss or life transition, we begin to try to make sense of that experience and overcome its fallout in ways that are not suited for the difficulties that lie ahead.

That is the purpose of this appendix – to prepare you to apply the materials contained in this study to grief experiences that are not the result of the death of a loved one. Throughout this study you will find language that refers to the loss of a person (i.e., loved one, him, her, spouse, child, parent, etc…). If your loss was not a person, then these references may give you the impression that these materials do not apply to you.

However, the major experiences, changes, and challenges of grief are similar enough that once you begin to see how grief disrupts your identity and story, you should be able to apply this material to losses that do not involve the loss of a person. The important thing for reading these materials is (1) that you recognize your loss as a grief event and (2) that you are able to articulate what you have lost so that when you read the personal language in this guide, you naturally think of your loss.

This appendix will examine grief not triggered by death in four categories: the loss of innocence, the loss of a dream, the loss of stability, and the living death of divorce. These categories are not mutually exclusive, but they should help you think through different aspects of a grief struggle that is not triggered by someone’s death.

Grief & the Loss of Innocence

This grief is usually related to some form of abuse. In abuse, trust (a key element of innocence) is redefined from a positive quality that blesses a relationship to a dangerous activity that is now akin to naiveté. When that happens something precious is lost, but we often view this experience exclusively as a wound to be healed and overlook that it is also a loss to be grieved.

As you read and seek to apply these materials to the loss of innocence (or the other three categories), it may be helpful to find a physical object that represents the innocence that you lost. It could be a picture of you at the age just before the abuse occurred. Perhaps it is a picture of father or mother who is safe. Maybe you pick something more symbolic like a pillow to represent sleep without nightmares.

Regardless of the object, use it to remind you that you are grieving the absence of something good. In grieving lost innocence, it is easy to get lost in the powerful emotions and memories surrounding the violation that occurred and miss grieving the loss for the innocent person to whom they occurred. If we do this, we silence our grief and magnify our pain; we get distracted from the grief (our present task) and fixate on the violation (a past experience we cannot change). This leaves us trapped in a period of time we cannot change rather than allowing us to embark on a journey of grief by which God can give new meaning to our loss.

As you embark on this grief journey, recognize that healthy trust may be the most difficult and confusing aspect. The interaction you have with your Freedom Group, mentor, or counselor may be the most uncomfortable, yet beneficial, part of the journey. The redemption of innocence lost requires the willingness to embrace trust a blessing again.

A major theme in the journey that is ahead of you is seeing that Christ’s righteousness allows you to experience a sense of cleanness and innocence that was taken from you. As a Christian, God does not see you as defiled, and He invites you to see yourself through His eyes. Surrendering to Christ as Lord doesn’t just mean doing whatever God says, it also means allowing His perspective to have the final say on our life.

Do not feel rushed by that last paragraph. It may feel very far away. But that is why you are “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope.” The purpose of this section is merely to help contextualize this study for your loss so that you are able to see how grief applies to your past hurt.

Grief & the Loss of a Dream

The loss of a dream can emerge from a variety of experiences: infertility, divorce, job loss, chronic pain, a rebellious child, mid-life crisis, or anything else that prevents you from doing or having something very important to you. In the midst of these kinds of situations we often become so consumed with managing the details of life that we forget there is a loss to be grieved.

When we forget to grieve the loss of a dream, we are left with a nagging feeling that the experience was incomplete, but have no clue what is left to be done. After all, we managed all the details as best we could. What more could life want from me? But there still doesn’t feel like there is “closure” (whatever that word means).

In the loss of a dream, closure most often means grieving. In these situations, the theme of “story” in grief which you will find in these materials can be particularly helpful to the grieving process. Your loss affected your future more than your past. You may have painful dreams unfulfilled more than painful memories flooding your mind. You feel like you are walking into grief more than you are walking away from it.

Your loss was part of how you built your future in your mind. Now you feel like a character without a story more than a story with a character (i.e., loved one) missing. Chances are you resist and even resent having to write a new story. This is the loss you are grieving – the loss of a good story (i.e., dream) having to be rewritten.

A major theme in the journey ahead of you will be trusting God as the ultimate Author of history. Based upon your good dream, God has failed and forfeited His role. Having dreams, goals, or ambitions may now feel impossible or painfully vulnerable. However, it is through the journey of grieving your loss that you gain the courage to embrace a story again.  It is through honestly engaging with these fears, disappointments, hurts, and anger on the journey of grief that you can begin to see God for who He truly is again.

Grief & the Loss of Stability

If the loss of innocence is past tense grief and the loss of a dream is future tense grief, then the loss of stability is present tense grief. This grief might include an elderly parent surrendering independence to live with children, a fire destroying your home, a natural disaster hitting your city, or a criminal intrusion into your life. In these experiences the fear and anger over the violation or interruption often cause us to overlook the grief experience.

Often the grief over lost stability (present) is closely related to grief over the loss of a dream (future). It is the grief of divorce’s impact on my kid’s school performance more than a grief related to the possibility of growing old alone. It is the grief of struggling to pay this month’s bills, rather than unattainable dream of being VP in this company. It is the grief that drains the motivation to continue in rehab rather than that of the grief of understanding my life story as one that will include chronic pain.

With the loss of stability, the theme of “identity” which you will find in these materials on grief may be particularly helpful. To acknowledge my loss of stability often requires a significant change in my self-perception. However, unless we are careful this change can be a time when many lies and self-deprecating concepts enter our sense of identity.

Once you get through the initial shock of the loss of stability, then this grief process begins to closely resemble the grief related to the loss of a dream. The important thing to remember is that as you deal with the logistical and emotional fallout from your loss of stability, that this is a loss to be grieved and your processing of this event will likely feel incomplete until you have done so.

Grief & Living Death

One of the common descriptions for the experience of divorce is “living death.” There is a union and family which dies, but each member of that family (spouses, children, and grandparents) remain alive to observe the slow, painful death and try to figure out how they are to relate to one another. In many ways grief is easier when the person or thing that you lost is not constantly coming in and out of your life or sending messages that have to be interpreted.

As you go through these materials on grief, you may need to give more attention the sections on grief triggers or unpredictably hard times, and rely less on the general guidelines given to the time frame for grief. Grieving a divorce is less orderly than other grief experiences.

You may also find that the experiences of anger and guilt are more pronounced in grieving a divorce than in other grief experiences. In your suffering story (chapter four), it may be harder to weave out the themes of “I deserve this,” “relationships hurt,” or “evil wins” from your grief. The fact that there is rarely an “innocent party” in a divorce will make the discernment between sin and suffering a more necessary task than in other forms of grief.

Thinking through the changes in relationships will be me more involved than with other forms of grief. Most of the same dynamics that are discussed in this material will exist, but with an additional level of complexity. For instance, related to couple friends as a single person will still be different and awkward, but, after a divorce, maintaining friendship can feel like choosing sides for your friends. Overt conversations about these changes are wise.

A major theme in your journey through grief will be patience and reliance upon God. Coming to the same challenges over and over again (i.e., the pain of a weekly visitation schedule, having to decide about holidays, hearing “updates” on your ex-spouse from friends, etc…) will trigger grief regularly. You might ask several key people to pray Colossians 1:9-14 on your behalf regularly, especially verse 11 where Paul asks for “all endurance and patience with joy” for his Colossian friends.

Another theme in your journey will be the resistance of taking on “divorced” as your identity. Whenever we struggle with one thing for an extended period of time, we have a tendency to embrace it as who we are. As you move through the section on learning your gospel story, make sure that you see that divorce is not the defining chapter of your life.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Grief” post which address other facets of this subject.

Small Group Care Plan for the Whole Journey of Grief

Note: This post is an excerpt from the seminar notebook that will accompany the “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” seminar at The Summit Church.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Please invite anyone you believe would benefit from learning how the God of all comfort speaks to the various losses of life through the gospel.

Not all formatting of the care plan chart was able to transfer to this post. The completely formatted version will be available in the seminar notebook.  I apologize for any confusion the transfer to a blog format creates, but hope that the benefit of seeing the concept outweighs the visual confusion.

Appendix C
Small Group Care Plan for the Whole Journey

Caring for a friend facing a significant loss is something that we (as friends and church members) often start well. We bring meals and try to make sure the mundane burdens (like mowing the grass) are handled. But too often this ends after a couple of weeks, and when the care ends the grieving individual often feels like it is no longer acceptable to speak of their loss. The length of our care often becomes the unspoken time table for how long grief is socially acceptable to talk about.

Our care can be an immense blessing when we care well for the duration of the grieving process. The purpose of this appendix is to equip a small group to care for its members after a significant loss in a way that facilitates healthy grieving and demonstrates the present, patient love of Christ through His body, the church. Our goal would be to ensure that when their season of grief comes, every member of a small group would be able to echo this testimony:

“Reading back through journal entries made a decade earlier… I realized I had faced my greatest fear in life—to love and then to lose someone—with my faith intact. My wife’s death confirmed rather than threatened my faith because everything that followed conformed to what I had been taught to expect. My church family rallied to my aid, swamping me with love and care; my co-workers expressed deep sympathy and shouldered my responsibilities until I could return to work, and above all God made His presence and His comfort known in special ways (p. 14).” Joseph Lehmann in “Believing in Hope” from The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Winter 1998).

A Standard Beginning

During the first couple of weeks the goal is simply to be a compassionate presence and to serve your friend by providing the mental-emotional space to process all the changes in his/her life. Your involvement at this stage is very practical, but with the awareness that practical involvement will likely create the opportunity to listen to where your friend is in that moment.

As a small group you will want to:

  • Create a plan for who can brings meals for the first 1-2 weeks.
  • Find out if there are household chores or lawn work that can be alleviated.
  • Attend funeral
  • Be aware of appointments (medical, legal, etc…) and provide support for these as needed.

Recording Important Dates

A significant loss has more than one significant date. For instance, in caring for someone who lost their spouse you would need to be aware of more than the date he/she died. You would also want to know birthday, anniversary, when they may have been planning a special get away, Father’s/Mother’s Day, etc… During the first year there will be more of these dates and special form of contact should be added on these dates to the care plan below.

In the second and third year, several of these dates will be points that you will want to let your friend know you remember the occasion. The tone of these interactions do not have to be somber. It often encouraging and freeing for someone to know that their loved one is not forgotten (there is a great of burden that comes with being someone’s sole-rememberer).

Someone in the small group will want to get the dates for the following occasions and share them with the group as needed or appropriate. Making a note or two about what your friend remembers or liked best about these dates with their loved one can be an effective way to care more meaningfully in the future.

  • Birthday of Deceased: ________________
  • Due date for the unborn: ______________
  • Date of Death: ______________________
  • Anniversary: ______________________
  • Relevant or Favorite Holidays: ________
  • Planned or Annual Trips / Events: ______
  • Special Time to Loved One (i.e., Start of Hunting Season): ____
  • Important Life Marker for Loved One (i.e, Start of School): ____
  • Other: ____________________________
  • Other: ____________________________
  • Other: ____________________________

Advice for Grief Journey Companion:

The care plan below discusses someone serving as a “Grief Journey Companion” (GJC). This is a member of the group who will take the time to study through this “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” seminar with their friend. The GJC does not need to see themselves as a counselor, but as companion who ensures their friend does not have to travel this difficult terrain alone.

It is recommended the grieving friend and GJC meet every other week during the first five to six months of grief. In between meetings each person would watch the videos and study the material in this notebook. Between meetings the GJC would send their grieving friend messages of encouragement or prayers regarding the material being studied.

In addition the GJC would:

  • Be available for phone calls when grief is particularly intense.
  • Help the individual decide what to share with the small group during prayer times.
  • Communicate needs to the small group.

 Building a 12 Month Care Plan

The concept and some points of this care plan were adapted from Paul Tautges’ book Comfort Those Who Grieve.

Be sure to add to this care plan interaction on the special dates recorded above. While completing a chart like this may seem a bit formal, without it grief care tends only to last for a relatively short time or becomes the responsibility of only one person within the group.

Resource: 12 Month Care Plan

Write the date of loss ______ / _______ / ________

 

When?

Date

What?

Who?

Week 1

Week of  _ /_

Bring MealsHelp with household choresAttend Funeral

Many Small Group Members

Week 2

Week of  _/_

Bring MealsHelp with household chores

Many Small Group Members

Week 3

Week of  _/_

Two phone calls with specific questions* about grief. ______________________________

Week 4

Week of  _/_

Lunch or DinnerOffer to study through “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” together

Grief Journey Companion (GJC): commits to bi-monthly interaction for the next 6 months.

GJC: ____________________

Week 5

Week of  _/_

Two e-mails containing prayers or words of encouragement ____________________________________________

Weeks 6

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 1 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 7

Week of  _/_

One phone call with specific questions* about grief.

______________________

Week 8

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 2 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 9

Week of  _/_

Send a list of encouraging Scripture and a prayer.

Small Group Leader

Week 10

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 3 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 12

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 4 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 14

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 5 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 16

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 6 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 18

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 7 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 20

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 8 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 22

Week of  _/_

Discuss Step 9 material over visit or phone call.

GJC

Week 24

Week of  _/_

Phone call letting them know the small group wants to pray for them on the 6 month anniversary of their loss.

Small Group Leader

Week 26

Week of  _/_

During group prayer time ask for report on how the last 6 months have been and pray specifically for them.

Group as Whole

Month 7

_______

One point of person-to-person or voice-to-voice contact in which at least two specific questions* are asked about grieving process.

______________________

Month 8

_______

One point of person-to-person or voice-to-voice contact in which at least two specific questions* are asked about grieving process.

______________________

Month 9

________

One point of person-to-person or voice-to-voice contact in which at least two specific questions* are asked about grieving process.

______________________

Month 10

_______

One point of person-to-person or voice-to-voice contact in which at least two specific questions* are asked about grieving process.

______________________

Month 11

_______

One point of person-to-person or voice-to-voice contact in which at least two specific questions* are asked about grieving process.

______________________

Month 12

__/ __/ __

During group prayer time ask for report on how the last 1 year has been and pray specifically for them. The small group leader should talk to the person prior to this evening.

Group as Whole

After

When Applicable

The group should continue to keep up with key dates (i.e., birthday, anniversary, etc…) related to the loss in the second and third year after the loss. A card or phone call on these dates can remind the person they are not alone.

Group as Whole

* Specific Questions: Throughout the care plan it mentions periodic phone calls with “specific questions” about how your friend is doing in the grieving process. It is important to ask questions which give your friend the freedom to speak of his/her grief. Otherwise, they may feel awkward with answering a generic “how have you been doing?” with a reflection on their grief. If they simply say fine, you do not have press for a more involved response but it is good to follow up with, “I want you to know that if you have a rough day, you have someone to talk to.”

The following questions could be asked during these interactions:

  •  I know it has been [amount of time] since [name] passed, how are you doing? How is it different from where you expected to be at this point?
  • Has there been anything that has reminded you of name [name] recently? How do you handle it when things like that arise?
  • Last time we talked about your grief you asked me to pray for [blank], how is that going? Is there anything different I should be praying for now?
  • Have you thought of any stories about [name] that you’ve wanted to share with someone lately? What kind of things have caused you to think of him/her most lately?
  • What emotions has your grief expressed itself in lately? What do you attribute that to?
  • I know [name] really enjoyed [blank] this time of year and they’ve been on my mind lately. How about you?

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Grief” post which address other facets of this subject.

Using Counseling in Your Personal Outreach

At The Summit Church, our counseling ministry wants to equip you for local missions. This is done primarily through our seminars. The next of these will be on September 25 on “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” in the Brier Creek South venue.

Consider the following points: (1) every person will face grief many times in their life, (2) grief is a time when we are forced to think about what’s after death, and (3) during grief people often reflect on the purpose of their life and want to talk about it.

Question: What if you had a resource which equipped you to compassionately enter those conversations and consistently directed conversations towards the gospel in grief-appropriate ways? Could you say to a friend, “I know you’re going through a lot with the loss of [name]. I know a decent study that is designed to help people process their grief, if it would help you to talk through it I’d be glad to listen.”

That is the goal of the counseling ministry – to produce these kind of materials on a myriad of subjects. To help you gain a better grasp of why we are doing things this way, this post includes one of the introductory page that is included in every Summit counseling seminar.

What Can I Hope to Get From this Seminar?

Whether you are here due to personal need, the needs of others, or for a general interest in the topic, we hope this seminar will benefit you.  If we do our job well, parts of this seminar will speak to you personally.  There will also be parts that speak to aspects of this subject that are different from your own experience. What follows are six unavoidable facts that should help you profit from all of the material you hear (bold faced text taken from Paul Tripp and Tim Lane How People Change):

1.  Someone in your life had a problem this week. That person may be you.  Even if you are here for yourself, chances are you know or will know others who struggle in this area.  Because we live in a fallen world and have a sin nature, we can be certain that we will battle with sin and suffering in our lives.  Because we love people, we can be certain we will be called on to love and assist others in their battle with sin and suffering.

2.  We have everything we need in the Gospel to help that person (2 Peter 1:3). God has given us Himself, the Gospel, the Bible, and the church and promised they are effective for all things that pertain to life and godliness.  Our task as Christians is to grow in our understanding of and ability to skillfully apply these resources to our struggles. These resources are the essence and source of “good advice,” and we hope to play a role in your efforts to apply and disseminate this “good advice.”  We do not aim to present new material, but new ways of applying the timeless, eternal truths of the Gospel found in Scripture.

3. That person will seek help from friends, family members, or pastors before seeking professionals. Counseling (broadly defined as seeking to offer hope and direction through relationship) happens all the time.  We talk with friends over the phone, crying children in their rooms, spouses in the kitchen, fellow church members between services, and have endless conversations with ourselves.  We listen to struggles, seek to understand, offer perspective, give advice, and follow up later.  This is what the New Testament calls “one-anothering” and something we are all called to do.

4.  That person either got no help, bad help, or biblical, gospel-centered help. Not all counseling is good counseling.  Not all advice that we receive from a Christian (even a Christian counselor) is Christian advice.  Too often we are advised to look within for the answers to our problems or told that we are good enough, strong enough, or smart enough in ourselves to overcome.  Hopefully you will see today how the Bible calls us to something (rather Someone) better, bigger, and more effective than these messages.

5.  If they did not get meaningful help, they will go elsewhere. When we do not receive good advice (pointing us to enduring life transformation), we keep looking.  We need answers to our struggles.  This means that as people find unfulfilling answers they will eventually (by God’s grace) come to a Christian for advice.  When they eventually come to you, we hope you will be more prepared because of our time together today.

6.  Whatever help they received, they will use to help others! We become evangelists for the things that make life better (this is why the Gospel is simply called “Good News”).  We quite naturally share the things that we find to be effective.  Our prayer for you today is that you will find the material presented effective for your struggles and that you will be so comforted and encouraged by it that it will enable you to be a more passionate and effective ambassador of the Gospel in the midst of “normal” daily conversations.

“Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” Seminar Outline

Note: This post is the “table of contents” for the seminar “Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope” which will be presented at The Summit Church.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. Please invite anyone you believe would benefit from learning how the God of all comfort speaks to the various losses of life through the gospel.

Hour One

Chapter 1. “Preparing for Your Grief Journey”
PREPARE yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually to face your suffering

Chapter 2 “Identifying the Pieces of My Story”
ACKNOWLEDGE the specific history and realness of my suffering

 Hour Two

Chapter 3. “How Has My Life / Story Changed?”
UNDERSTAND the impact of my suffering 

Chapter 4. “The Darkest Part of My Journey”
LEARN MY SUFFERING STORY which I used to make sense of my experience

Chapter 5. “The Journey Is About More Than the Destination”
MOURN the wrongness of what happened and receive God’s comfort

Hour Three

Chapter 6. “My Loss Story in His Story”
LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience

Chapter 7. “Where is ‘Better’ on This Journey?”
IDENTIFY GOALS that allow me to combat the impact of my suffering

Chapter 8. “Beginning to Live the Rest of My Story”
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me

Chapter 9. “Living the Rest of Your Story”
STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory

Appendices

  1. Memorial Ceremony for an Unborn Child
  2. Applying the Grief Seminar to Losses Not Caused by Death
  3. Small Group Care Plan for the Whole Journey
  4. Healthy Ways to Capture Memories
  5. Bible Readings on Grief
  6. Recommended Books
  7. Freedom Group Study Plans
  8. Parenting Tips and Family Devotions for Each Chapter
  9. What Do I Do Now?

Memorial Ceremony for an Unborn Child

Note: This post is an excerpt from the seminar notebook that accompanies the “Take the Journey of Grief with Hope” seminar.

Appendix A

 Memorial Ceremony for an Unborn Child

 Grieving the loss of an unborn child can be particularly difficult. No one else had the privilege of knowing your baby and, therefore, many of the rituals of grief (i.e., sharing pictures or stories of how the lost loved one touched other’s lives) cannot be engaged. Because no one else knew their baby, parents often try to take this journey of grief alone.

What follows are suggestions for how to honor your lost child and facilitate your own grieving process. Do not consider this appendix to be a recipe to be followed directly, but as a collection of ideas to take what best applies to your situation. Some families who lose their baby may chose not to utilize a service like this one. A small group or church family should be considerate of the family’s wishes when offering to help in this way.

The suggestions recommended below will be incorporated in the memorial service outlined at the end of this appendix.

Name Your Baby: This will be important for not only the memorial, but for the on-going grief process. This will allow you to reference your child in future conversations (which is healthy). Without a name, you and others will be more likely to begin to live as if the loss never happened within a matter of weeks. Parents may change the name they intended to call their child without feeling as they are
dishonoring their baby. The goal in naming the baby is to accept the loss as real, not to say that nothing has or can change.

Write a Good-Bye Letter: With many losses we see death coming and get to say good-bye. With miscarriage there is both surprise and your child would not have been able to hear your words. A letter allows you to put your initial grief into words which can be heard by family and friends at the memorial. It allows you to process these early experiences of your grief and to feel more understood.

Memorial Box: This is not a casket, but a place to keep some precious things (i.e., blanket, small toys, birth/death certificates, ultra sound pictures, good-bye letter, notes from friends, your grief journal, etc…). A memorial box can allow your child to always have a place of remembrance in your home without the “enshrinement effect” that comes with having a room devoted to your lost child.

Get a Grief Journal: You will have many thoughts and experience many emotions in the coming months. You may fear forgetting what you are thinking and feeling, because it is all you have left of your baby. A journal is a healthy place to capture those thoughts and emotions. One option many mothers have found helpful is Mommy, Please Don’t Cry by Linda DeYmaz. This journal also serves as a place to gather your thoughts so that you have an answer when friends, family, or small group members ask, “How are you doing?”

Don’t Rush the Memorial: Planning and conducting the memorial is an important part of the grieving process. It confirms that this is a real loss, one to be acknowledged by those who love you, and that there is a journey of grief ahead. It is during the planning and conducting of a memorial that denial can wear off and a network of friends be established to support you in the weeks and months ahead.

Plant a Tree / Garden: Often with a miscarriage one of the difficulties in the grief process is that there is nowhere to go and grieve or to place flowers on your child’s birthday and other special occasions. Planting a tree can provide you a place to go and remember. It also provides a visual reminder of the passing of time and personal growth as you see the tree mature. If a family chooses to plant a tree or garden, this would determine the location of the ceremony and would need to be in a place where the property would not be sold or outside a home from which the family planned to move.

Create a Time Capsule: It can make the memorial seem more real funeral if there is something to bury. With the planting of a tree, you might also bury a time capsule with a copy of your good-bye letter, toys you had purchased, medical bracelets/papers from the
DNC visit, a list of the dreams for this child you are surrendering to God, or other memorable items.

 Planning the Memorial

 As you plan the memorial, remember this is not a means to an end, but a part of the grief process. Taking the time to plan a memorial
confirms the reality of your grief. You did not just have a medical procedure. You lost a child, and it is right to grieve.

Planning the ceremony is a time of very beneficial conversation with your spouse and children. Often families are not sure how to talk to one another, what is acceptable to say or feel, or when to bring up the subject. If this ice is not broken, grief becomes stifled for everyone. Planning a ceremony is a good way to open the lines of communication. The outline below should help facilitate these conversations. Each member of the family can feel free to say what he/she likes and dislikes without fearing they may be insulting another family member’s idea.

The guest list is also important. It is wise to invite more people than you think will come. The memorial is a way to announce your loss so
that you do not have to face as many excited “how’s the baby?” questions in the weeks ahead. Also, by inviting people to the memorial, you will feel less pressure to “act normal.” Having a ceremony declares that normal has been disrupted in a significant way and that it will be a while before normal returns.

 A Memorial Ceremony

 Note: Use this section as a suggestion and not a template. Make it your own. The material below is merely meant to give you something to build from at a time when it is hard to concentrate and there are so many other things on your mind.

Officiate: Ask a pastor or small group leader to conduct the memorial. Your role should be to participate in the memorial; not to try to
lead it.

Preparation: Depending on what elements of the service you use, some preparation may be needed. It is fine to ask friends and family to help with digging the hole for the time capsule, preparing food for a follow up meal, or handling childcare.

Opening Scripture & Prayer:

Psalm 139:13-18 (ESV), “For you formed my [may choose to use the child’s name throughout the Psalm reading] inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them! If you count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.”

Lord, we come to you with broken hearts because Your Word it true. [Name] was fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful and we longed to know them in [name’s] life. You knew [name] intimately from conception and know him/her even now. We come because we will not get the privilege of knowing [name] this side of heaven and that hurts us.

  • Words of prayer for family
  • Words of prayer for mother
  • Words of prayer for father
  • Words of prayer for siblings
  • Words of prayer for grandparents and extended family present

Lord, we do hold your thoughts as precious even when we do not understand them. We admit we cannot understand this and it pains us. We ask that You would comfort us with the knowledge that when we are awake thinking about [name], that [name] is awake with You. Amen.

Reading of Parent’s Good-Bye Letter:

This can be done by the family standing together, one member of the family, or by the memorial officiate on behalf of the family. After reading the letter the family can place the letter (and any items of significance referenced in the letter) in the time capsule to be buried.

Reading of Words from Others:

The family might ask certain other people to write their thoughts and reflections to be read at this time. If so, it would be wise to have these pieces written out to ensure they are fitting for a memorial service. At the conclusion of reading each of these the individual would have two copies of his/her statement. First, the individual would walk to the parents/siblings and give them a copy for the memory box. Second, the individual would go to the time capsule and place a copy there.

Planting of Tree and Time Capsule:

Officiate: Throughout Scripture we find that God encourages His people to make places of remembrance for burial of loved ones. We find in this the tenderness and mercy of our God. God was not content to merely bring [name] to Himself in heaven, but He also is concerned to care for [mom’s name, dad’s name, sibling by name] until they are reunited with [name] in the presence of Jesus.

When we lose an unborn child families often do not receive the grace of God that comes from a place of remembrance. As those who love and care for [mom’s name, dad’s name, sibling by name] we wanted to make sure that was not the case for them. We will be planting a tree in memory of [name] (say a few words about the type of tree or location where tree is planted if either has particular meaning).

[Looking at family] God wants you to have a place to remember. He cares for you. And we, as your family and friends, want to be an extension of his care for you in the weeks and months ahead. Having a place to grieve is not all that you will need. You will need to know that you do not have to grieve alone or in silence. We want to be the Body of Christ to you on this journey and sharing your tears will be our privilege.

[Looking at attendees] The [last name] family will be keeping a memory box of precious items from [name’s] life. I would encourage you in the days and weeks ahead to write out how God has used [name], the shared experience of joy over pregnancy and grief over miscarriage, and how the [last name] family’s example has strengthened your walk with the Lord. These letters will be precious reminders of the impact [name] had and a confirmation that he/she was as real as their pain testifies. As they are stored in their memory box, these letters will become the fond stories they re-visit like the stories you retell with your family about lost loved ones.

Plant tree and time capsule. [For this time having a song selected – whether played/sung live or on CD – to allow for a worshipful
meditation and prevent silence from making an awkward distraction before the end of the service.]

Closing Scripture & Prayers:

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV), “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

Lord, we are grateful for this picture of what [name] is experiencing as we gather. Our loss and grief is made bearable and has hope because of Your love for children. We also come to you as children. In moments like these our world seems bigger than we can handle and we strongly sense our need for our Father’s protection. There are things we cannot explain to our children and we ask them to trust us. This is an experience we cannot understand and so we express a child-like faith that is full of questions and emotions.

We pray a special protection over the hearts and minds of [mom’s name, dad’s name, sibling by name]. Give them a special awareness of your presence and care in the coming days. Amen

[Officiate: Give instructions of how the memorial will conclude.]

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Grief” post which address other facets of this subject.

Book Review: God’s Healing for Life’s Losses by Robert Kellemen

Grief is an experience that one out of every one person will face.  Unfortunately, the more people we love the more times we will experience significant grief.  In the midst of the pain we often ask “To love or not to love?” and are tempted to consider not loving as the better option.

Robert Kellemen has written an excellent book to guide us through this difficult (and often repetitive) season of life.  The quality is good enough to warrant an endorsement from Grief Share.  There are three aspects of the book that I would like to highlight in this post.

First, the book is short (only 111 pages total).  In the midst of grief concentration is difficult and processing anything is hard.  A grieving person could pick up this book and not feel intimidated.  That is important.  There are more ways to display an understanding of one’s audience than cleverly articulating penetrating insight.  Dr. Kellemen reveals his compassionate heart for grieving people by writing a book that is accessible to them in the midst of their pain.

Second, this book offers biblical markers for the journey through grief rooted in a well-developed theology of suffering.  While aware of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance), Dr. Kellemen does not operate strictly within this paradigm.  He offers eight stages rather than five.

  • From Denial to Candor: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
  • From Anger to Complaint: A Lament for Your Loss
  • From Bargaining to Crying Out to God: I Surrender All
  • From Depression to Comfort: God Comes
  • From Regrouping to Waiting: When God Says “Not Yet”
  • From Deadening to Wailing: Pregnant with Hope
  • From Despairing to Weaving: Spiritual Mathematics
  • From Digging Cisterns to Worshipping: Finding God

Where as Kubler-Ross lumps acceptance into one-big-stage, Dr. Kellemen divides it into four more manageable experiences.

Third, the book is very personal.  Not “in your business” personal, but “walking with you” personal.  It contains the story of Dr. Kellemen’s own experiences with grief and the testimony of many others.  More than this, he invites you into the book with guided reflection embedded into the book.  If you take the time to reflect and write as you read you will have more than practical, biblical information when you finish the book.  You will have a travelogue of your journey though grief that can serve as a precious memento of your loved one and an encouraging refuge during those times when the pain of grief returns (holiday, birthdays, and other special occasions).

In closing, I would agree with the words of Garrett Higbee (President of Twelve Stones Ministries and Executive Director of Harvest Bible Soul Care), “God’s Healing for Life’s Losses takes on traditional thoughts about grief and loss and turns them upside down. There is refreshing honesty about the pain of loss and the permission to be real with God and others as we embrace the mourning process together. This book is biblical, personal, and healing; I highly recommend it.”