Room to Grieve

How to be Present for Those Mourning a Loss
June 11, 2024

How can one minister effectively to someone who is experiencing loss? Working at Texas Health Huguley Hospital for the past year and a half has given me a different perspective on this. As a conference pastor and religion professor, my immediate go-to when facing death was pointing people toward the blessed hope. This is not the worst thing, but I did not realize that in doing so, I was often telling others they were not allowed to traverse in sorrow. Through my chaplaincy training, I now know I was missing a much-needed step when facing death. It is simple, yet profound. It is deep, yet discomforting. It is needed, but often overlooked: plain and simple grief. 

A friend of mine lost his mother recently, and I had a choice to make. I could revert to my old way of ministering or embrace my new, profound training. Instead of telling him to remember the good times, celebrate her life, or that he would see her again on resurrection morning, I did something else. I chose to sit with him in discomfort. This was hard to do, but it was needed! I sat with him and gave him room to grieve.

We often think our job is to cheer people up, but I beg to differ; our more profound calling is to be with people in the pits of life. This, in essence, is the beginning of grief. It allows people the space and time to do what they need to cope with loss. Ministering this way is difficult because you may not know what to say or do, but the ministry of presence is powerful beyond measure. In order to bolster this ministry more, the following are three tangible steps you can apply to yourself or a friend going through a difficult time. 

These steps are taken from the precursor to the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:27 (NKJV), “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

  1. Connect the mind and the heart. The church setting has taught many of us to be quite intellectual, which is not bad, but God created us to be holistic beings. Notice that the text tells us to love with our hearts, souls, strengths and minds! We are also called to minister this way. Show up for others with your whole person present. 
  1. Relax in discomfort, whether for yourself or others, and learn to be okay with not being okay. Rely on God for strength, but know that mourning while leaning into Him and others is key. 
  1. Be yourself, be present and be who you are called to be. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Be the love the Savior is compelling you to be in your unique way. 

How can you effectively minister to yourself and others facing loss? Connect, relax, be yourself and leave room for grief. 

By Buster Swoopes. Swoopes is the Regional Director of Clinical Mission Integration for AdventHeath’s Southwest Region at Texas Health Huguley Hospital.