Ministering to the Bereaved: Creating a Pastoral Plan

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Sullivan, Mary Ann
Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology
Grief is a natural and normal human response to loss. It effects us physically, cognitively, emotionally, behaviorally, and spiritually. All people experience grief when something or someone they are attached to is lost. It is a universal response. Individuals from about age three on experience grief when they experience loss. Grief is not limited to the poor, to the old, to the female. People of all cultures, at every stage of life, and in every walk of life experience grief. They may deal with it differently, but all do have to deal with it in order to get past the pain. At the present time there is no such entity as a Bereavement Committee or Ministry at St. Ambrose Parish. The Daughters of Isabella is called upon to provide a meal after the funeral if a family requests such a service. The pastor takes care of providing comfort to the survivors, helping them make funeral arrangements, and supporting them afterwards if asked. The statement made by Stephen McConnell is very true in our parish situation: “Typically the Church does well in the crisis moments of death and immediate grief, but is often not prepared to walk with the bereaved down the long path” (Doka, ed. Living with Grief: Who We Are, How We Grieve, p. 42). Completing the cycle of grief in life’s many losses is essential if the bereaved is to move on with life. Many people do not understand this; they do not know the stages of grief; they do not know how to mourn appropriately. They may even deny the need for grieving. “They may not know that grieving is a process of letting go, and that letting go usually requires forgiving, even forgiving one’s self. Mourning is a spiritual activity...” (Kornfeld, p. 217), and thus the concern of the church community. A bereavement committee or ministry that would focus on the long-term issues involved in coming to terms with loss is needed at St. Ambrose.