Different Kinds of Ministry: Ministering to the Bereaved
Many times when we lose a loved one, people visit our homes and spend time with us, largely until the burial day. For some weeks after that, groups gather and visit, and then the visits dwindle down to some family members and close friends, and then that ‘chapter’ is closed and life moves on. It’s just the way it is.
During those periods, especially at the beginning, there’s a lot of activity, with hardly any time to sit and really think about what has happened. There’s a general sense of shock and numbness, so that as we participate in the routine activities towards the burial, we don’t really realize the gap and emptiness that lies behind and beneath the crowds that we see.
It is after the burial, when we go home and there’s no crowd meeting to sing comforting songs and give encouraging speeches that things really begin to sink. The loneliness and aloneness comes alive, almost mimicking the moments of loss. Something thick seems to fill the air, almost tangibly so.
And it is then that a different kind of ministry is required. The ministry of presence. For people to just be there. Just BE there. There may not be much conversation or activity, but the presence will mean a lot. There may not be many things to say verbally anyway, but the presence will speak volumes.
For us, it was our neighbors. They would come home and simply sit with us, sometimes talking, sometimes not talking, and sometimes just being with us. I remember crying a lot, not knowing what to say, not even necessarily having something to say, but just being sad. And they would sit there with us, till past midnight. Just sit and be with us.
And it would mean so, so, so much. I can’t thank them enough. And when I look back and I feel empty and lonely, somehow I know that I am not alone. Because even now if I need to talk with them about it, I know I can. And I do. And it helps.
So ministry doesn’t have to come from the pulpit alone. There are certain needs that can’t be met from the pulpit. Some of them can only be met by individuals by just being present when presence is needed, even at very inconvenient times.
So yes, if you’re wondering how to help a grieving person, just BE there and it’ll mean the world to them. You don’t even have to say anything. Your presence will say it all.