Why Pastors Need Grief Coach Training
When my husband was dying, the words my pastor spoke in a sincere attempt to comfort me were “Everyone dies.” I don’t know if I am unique but I found those words to be anything but comforting. This is a good man who even showed up at my 19 year olds funeral (shown in the photo when he was 11 and his father was very ill) when we hadn’t attended his church in probably 8 years. I appreciate him and know he means well. I attribute his inability to provide meaningful support at the (at the time) worst moment of my life was simply lack of education. A few short years later he lost his own dad to the very type of cancer that took my husband. I suspect his words to others who face dying loved ones is different now because experience will always be the most effective teacher.
When my first child died, our senior pastor of a church we’d been apart of for about 10 years, told my husband that performing a funeral or memorial service for our two day old baby, was “not in his job description.” I swear this is true. We continued to attend the growing church for a few more years but something had gone cold. Fast forward a few more years and the church would implode due to claims that the leadership aided and abetted its members in a years long pattern of sexual abuse against their children congregants.
Pastors who have not personally faced the unthinkable loss of an immediate member of their family (and I chose immediate intentionally because it is expected that we will lose our parents and aunts and uncles, although still painful), typically do not have the understanding of what a profoundly bereaved individual experiences. They can imagine. They can empathize. But when they imagine their child has died a sudden and gruesome death, they can turn off the thought when it gets too hard and go hug their living children. We cannot.
Pastors are choosing to fill this hole by seeking out grief coach training programs, many of which are available online and at a low cost. Grief coaching is the process of standing by the grieving person through active listening, compassion, patience, and support. It is not giving advice. It is not telling the bereaved person what to do. It is not therapy or counseling you would find from a licensed professional. It is knowing the right things to say to facilitate healing. It is knowing how to approach God’s role without infuriating or alienating the parishioner.
Part of a pastor’s job is ministering to the emotional and psychological needs of the suffering. Pain is everywhere. To be alive and to love means we will suffer. However, the needs of the bereaved are unique. Just like it is not wise (or legal, even) for a General Practitioner to surgically remove your gallbladder, it is equally unwise for a pastor to try to be an expert in every aspect of life’s challenges without specialized training.
The Global Grief Institute provides Grief Coaching Certifications to give members of the clergy that specialized training.
All people who desire to serve God in either a professional or informal capacity, part time or full time, stateside or abroad, young and old can benefit those they serve with our grief coaching training. God designed every human being to die at some point. He even knows the exact hour and date of our death. He has given us a book full of promises to help us heal after the greatest losses. But He does not necessarily give everyone the unique and complex knowledge and understanding unless they seek it.
The Global Grief Institute would be honored to help you understand the reasons you need our training. Ask us about our Ministry Discounts for those serving full time in a 501c 3 non profit organization. We can work with any budget to bring all members of your staff a cost effective way to become Grief Coach experts.