Crowd sourcing: Bereavement resources for non-Christians

(Fr. Bill Mouser) #1

This is a toughy - and I’ll say candidly that in 50 years of ministry I have not run across something that is useful and effective to minister to non-Christians who are bereaved by the loss of someone dear to them.

What came to mind when a distant friend asked for this kind of resource is my own experience in seeking something useful to manage the almost certain death of my own eight-year old daughter, newly diagnosed with a diffuse brain stem tumor. When she was settled into her room at her first visit to Children’s Hospital in Dallas, I asked to speak to one of the staff chaplains out of her hearing. I asked him for resources to guide a parent in counseling his child who was very likely to die from the disease that brought him to the hospital in the first place.

Would you believe that the chaplain had nothing to offer me? Sixteen months later, when my daughter was near death in a different hospital, a chaplain came by and I asked him the same question. Same non-answer!

And, this is for Christian children who were dying!

On one hand, I expect the resources to engage bereavement itself are going to lie mostly - possibly exclusively - with nearby family. Siblings and children. In the current case, a woman has lost her father and her husband in the space of two weeks. She needs assurance of love and commitment that in her declining years she will be cared for, protected.

Beyond that, I have nothing at hand to point my friend to.

So, if I’ve overlooked the kind of thing that might help (out in internet-land; or in print), please let me know. It won’t be the first time I’ve failed to see something in plain sight.

(Josiah) #2

This is a great question, and as a chaplain who routinely notifies non-Christians that a relative has passed away… I want to know the answer.

(Tim Bayly) #3

Three suggestions: give them some poems by John Donne; read Joe Bayly’s book “Heaven” out loud to them and discuss it with them; and give them a copy of Dad’s short book, “VIew from a Hearse.” Personally, I think it’s the best book he wrote. I know there are other things to be mentioned, but I like Donne and Dad on death. Love,

(Fr. Bill Mouser) #4

Thank you, @tbbayly, for the suggestions. I’ve passed them along to the sister who originated this query.

Meanwhile, she has turned up information on a ministry aimed at exactly this problem. It’s called Grief Share.

Here’s what our sister turned up after doing some digging and interviewing with folks who know this Christian ministry:

Wanted to loop back round on GriefShare. Last night I spoke at length to a friend in Cincinnati currently going through a GriefShare group (her husband died 14 months ago after a long battle with cancer), and finds it profoundly healing. A GriefShare group meets weekly for 13 weeks, watches videos, works through a workbook together (with a trained leader). A primary goal is for people to take comfort in the Scriptures. It began with the workbook leading people to Christ. All in her group lost spouses, and can openly share their feelings about their losses. All differ in their grieving process. She said those whose spouses died suddenly are finding the grieving process more difficult–they didn’t have opportunity to say goodbye, so closure now is harder. They are more burdened by regrets and guilt (though both are a common part of grieving). My friend said that isolation is the most painful consequence; when she does venture out, she often feels like a fifth wheel. (An Amish friend, 11 years my senior, tells me the same; her husband died not quite a year ago.)

Also last evening we received an email from another friend (one whom we contacted about possible bereavement websites), who shared her own experience with GriefShare in Philadelphia (12 years ago). She and her husband were missionaries to France (with the Navigators) for many years before they returned Stateside. Her husband died from head trauma in a bicycling accident (driver who hit him was never found). She said many of the same things the woman above shared–how helpful it was to be with other people who had lost spouses. Like so many things in life, only those who have gone through it really understand it.

Both of these women are longtime friends (as were their husbands), all solid Bible-believing-reading Christians–we trust them. We’re humbled (and greatly instructed) by the level of their honesty. Both women expressed great compassion for the woman for whom I’ve sought help, knowing some of what she’s now facing.

Haven’t yet had opportunity to speak with our neighbor about his loss (4 years ago), and the GriefShare group scheduled to begin at his church this July.

I hope this is helpful for you.

It occurs to me that the world provides a number of contexts inside of which people are - all other things being equal - more disposed to hearing truth from the Scriptures than otherwise. Prison settings, obviously, is one of these contexts. And, the experience of facing the death of a loved one is another context which is potentially very fruitful for spiritual purposes.

I’m delighted to learn of Grief Share and how they’ve waded into these kinds of situations with the eternal truths of sin, righteousness, and judgment - truths which are so often veiled by the hum drum of daily living.