How to Start a Bereavement Ministry

by Angus Koolbreeze

Grief over the loss of a loved one — or animal — can produce many strong, long-lasting emotions. For example, it can cause a person to feel isolated and lonely, as though nobody else is experiencing bereavement but himself. He may have an overwhelming feeling that his grief is a prison sentence he must endure for life. He may even experience disappointment in himself for not being able to overcome it soon and without difficulty. A support system is necessary to provide tools to help a person grieve a loss in a healthy way. One way of providing this aid is by forming a bereavement ministry.

Plan your ministry. Define its scope and parameters. Decide whether you are inviting people who have lost only human loved ones or if you wish to include those who have lost a pet that enjoyed the status of family member. Other bereavement situations include loss of a job, relationship breakup, terminal illness or miscarriage.

Seek wise counsel. Talk to your pastor and other leaders of your community. Ask them whether a similar resource is currently offered in your area. If the answer is yes, support the ministry that is already in place.

Familiarize yourself with the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Read the classic book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross "On Death and Dying" or peruse a website that deals with the stages of grief. Take notes on the material, then think about a time in your life when you have lost a loved one. Keep a journal. Revisit the feelings of the experience.

Seek training from a professional grief counselor or coach. Learn helpful techniques for dealing with people who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Put guidelines in place. For example, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America details a number of rules for participating in their grief seminar. The group has adopted rules such as no interruptions, all participants are to address one another on a first-name basis and everyone should keep strict confidentiality.

Look for people who have a similar vision to yours. Train them according to the training you have received. Ask them what positions they would like to fill in the ministry — visiting bereaved families whose loved one has recently passed away, writing thank-you notes to those who attended or officiated at a funeral or cooking, cleaning and doing other household chores for the recently widowed.

Include a grief life-coaching service. Focus on helping people to function from day to day in the aftermath of the event that led to the bereavement. Enlist the help of trained, compassionate life coaches to run the program.

Choose a name for your group. Select a title that is easy to remember and has a positive tone, such as "Healing Waters."

Advertise your program. Use church bulletins, pastors' announcements, websites, radio public service announcements or flyers to spread the word in your place of worship and throughout the larger community.

Resources

  • Elisabeth Kübler-Ross; On Death and Dying, Routledge; 1969

About the Author

Angus Koolbreeze has been a freelance writer since 2007. He has been published in a variety of venues, including "He Reigns Magazine" and online publications. Koolbreeze has a Master of Arts in English from Western Michigan University.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images