How can I assist the family through the first hours, days and weeks?

By Patrick Misener Executive Director, Smile Again Ministries

When I entered pastoral ministry 30 years ago, I knew there would be times when I would have to deal with death. To be honest, I was fairly comfortable with the fact that death was a “natural” part of life. When I performed the funeral services for an 87 year-old grandmother and a 72 year-old farmer, I didn’t feel I had any difficulties saying and doing the right things.

But when a young mother in our church lost her child at birth, an entirely new world of grief care opened to me. I wasn’t prepared for this new world of grief. I wasn’t prepared for the raw emotions. I wasn’t prepared to answer the natural questions that this mother had regarding God’s lack of answer to her prayers. I wasn’t ready. So I did the best I could.

Then, in 1988, my 13 year-old daughter died of heart disease. It was then that I realized “my best” was pathetically poor. In a moment I became the dad who had lost a child. My wife became a mom who would never hold her child again. My other two children became siblings without a sister.

I share these insights with you so that you will know that what I am about to share with you comes not just from study, but from real world experience. In 2007, my wife Judy and I opened Smile Again Ministries, a retreat center just for parents who have lost a child. Much of what I share is based upon working with many, many families who have lost a child. It is my desire that I can help you, as a pastor, steer away from shallow care-giving and from using dismissive and superficial answers for one of life’s deepest hurts and struggles.

Below are some thoughts about how you can provide significant and meaningful pastoral care to grieving parents through the first hours, days and weeks following the child’s death:

NEXT - Immediately Upon Hearing of the Child’s Death