Author Topic: Helping Widows Among Us  (Read 1023 times)

G.Edward

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Helping Widows Among Us
« on: December 25, 2009, 09:33:13 PM »
How can a congregation help the widows in its midst?  In what specific ways can a congregation effectively minister to those who grieve the death of a spouse?

Timotheus Verinus

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2009, 10:20:17 PM »
How can a congregation help the widows in its midst?  In what specific ways can a congregation effectively minister to those who grieve the death of a spouse?

Same as the other question. A qualified Stephen Ministry, and followup Christ Care groups. I honestly do not know a better response. That's what Stephen Ministry is for.

TV
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Dadoo

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2009, 08:34:12 AM »
How can a congregation help the widows in its midst?  In what specific ways can a congregation effectively minister to those who grieve the death of a spouse?

Simple. Be community and insist on being community to her. There are plenty of canned programs that you can involve you congregation in but their implied philosophy is: There is something wrong with you, we must operate on you. It prolongs the grieving since the widow knows that all these nice people will leave as soon as she quits grieving. Jesus' prescription to his disciples was: Thou shalt be community. (John 13:34-35)The community of the congregation outlasts her grief. They already love her, know her, and value her for what she brings to the community. She is no project, she is a member.

I guess my answer, and it is a little church answer, is: dare to be community.
Peter Kruse

Diversity and tolerance are very complex concepts. Rigid conformity is needed to ensure their full realization. - Mike Adams

Tom

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2009, 08:36:25 AM »
Amen

vicarbob

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2009, 08:59:46 AM »
"The Mourner's Path" is a bereavement ministry which a number of us in MNYS and the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island were introduced in the aftermath of 9-11. This is an eight-week, gathering in community of grievers, faciliated by a trained leader and is most certainly CHRIST centered.
There is a workbook, there is structure and is for a designed period of time. I have been blessed to co-facilitate several of these communities and have witnessed the healing power of GOD's grace in each and every person who gathered.
On Long Island, an Episcopal deacon and Lutheran deacon co-facilitate a group twice a year.
It is about community...with Christ at its center.

Lutheranistic

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2009, 09:34:50 AM »
I second Peter's comments....to simply "hand off" a member to a program, no matter how well-intended or effective the program, is unconscionable in the family of God. That said, "people who care" is an incomplete answer as well. There are unique needs that often cannot be met simply by caring people. It really is a "both/and" solution for which we should be searching. In addition to a caring community, I'm aware of two programs (and I'm sure there are others) that have been extraordinarily helpful to people hurting in the church community. I have personal experience with many who have been helped by GriefShare (http://www.griefshare.org) and DivorceCare (http://www.divorcecare.org. There are many of these groups operating throughout the country.

dkeener

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2009, 09:51:42 AM »
Amen to just being community. We had a wonderful saint join the Church triumphant last Saturday after a long struggle with cancer. On Christmas eve the bereaved widower told me that besides all of the "casserole love" that he has received. Some members came to his house to help him get his house in order by moving out the hospital bed and other items. The next day two ladies delivered and decorated a Christmas tree for him. A group of men showed up to help him finish some renovations he had started but not finished on his home. He has had numerous invitations for Christmas dinner, lots of calls, visits and prayers. He was fairly overwhelmed by the response.  There are many good tools out there like "Stephen's Ministry", but no "canned" programs can ever replace the spontaneous acts of love that spring from a caring community. So the real question is, "How do we foster this kind of community in our congregations?"
« Last Edit: December 26, 2009, 09:54:41 AM by dkeener »

Timotheus Verinus

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2009, 10:16:38 AM »
Amen

Agreed to all the above.

But a couple thoughts on what that looks like.

Family especially, but mostly the community, is pretty good at the first few months.  The transition period is after the thoughtful caring, there is transition back to normal life for others. (Daughter leaves back to California for her life, couples you hung together with start to go back to the couples events etc.) It helps to have some one who will walk for a while with the widow/widower the months after 'every one leaves,'  New rituals / projects ... or sometimes even the need to bother with such ... need to evolve. I'd say as a Pastor, it is good to know as many of the "special dates" (his birthday, anniversaries etc.) as you can, since the first year these will be hard days, and worth a simple call. That can be 11 months after the loss. You can do that by simply listening early, at funeral even, and paying attention. It is good to talk memories early and conversation will be "I remember that vacation you guys went to Yellowstone..." then mental note - call on July 9th. (even if that's 12 months away.) It's the - after everyone leaves - (not literally) part that needs attention. Any help there can be just as important as a casserole the day after.

Footnote: Stephen Ministry is not a canned program for the served, but training for the servant, an equipped person to call when you need to talk. (not a treatment. counselor or any of that) They (usually having been there) help connect you to programs, counselors etc, as, and when, you are ready, And they are trained ti recognize when that is. They are patient in doing nothing when that is what ought to be done. They are also very good at what not to do, and what not to say. Some of Haugk's best work came after his wife died. ("Don't Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart: 2004)

TV
« Last Edit: December 26, 2009, 10:34:01 AM by TVerinus »
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George Erdner

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2009, 10:19:37 AM »
Amen to just being community. We had a wonderful saint join the Church triumphant last Saturday after a long struggle with cancer. On Christmas eve the bereaved widower told me that besides all of the "casserole love" that he has received. Some members came to his house to help him get his house in order by moving out the hospital bed and other items. The next day two ladies delivered and decorated a Christmas tree for him. A group of men showed up to help him finish some renovations he had started but not finished on his home. He has had numerous invitations for Christmas dinner, lots of calls, visits and prayers. He was fairly overwhelmed by the response.  There are many good tools out there like "Stephen's Ministry", but no "canned" programs can ever replace the spontaneous acts of love that spring from a caring community. So the real question is, "How do we foster this kind of community in our congregations?"

Not to be insensitive to the unique needs of widows, but couldn't it be said that the challenges of any two widows are likely to not be identical? Or that if there are 10 widows, then there are 10 unique and individual people with unique and individual sets of needs, not 10 people with the exact same needs? And might not people who lost a child, or a sibling, or a parent not have needs similar to the needs of widows?

This is just one small and insignificant example. If I lost my wife, the last thing I'd need would be for anyone to bring me food. I'm a gourmet cook, and already do all the cooking for my wife and I. What I'd need are people to come over and eat the food I cook. But, that's just me, and can't be extrapolated as an example of what everyone might need in that situation. Teams of strangers who spring into action according to a pre-determined, one-size-fits-all plan wouldn't know how to deal with the needs of individuals in their congregations. People who know each other as unique individuals would be able to help each other in almost all circumstances.

So, I'd say that you're absolutely right that a congregation that is prepared to help all in their midst who suffer over the loss of a loved one would be best able to help widows.


Erme Wolf

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2009, 10:27:19 AM »
    I don't think Stephen Ministry is "just a canned program," although I suppose any thing can come to act like that in the wrong hands.  My experience with Stephen Ministers is that the ongoing training, follow-up, and commitment to serve others (as Stephen and the first deacons in Acts did) is an excellent way to make sure that the caring of a community actually happens in concrete, helpful ways.  

    One concrete thing I did in my last parish was organize follow-up letters to those who had suffered the death of a close family member (husband or wife, child, parent, brother or sister) for the year following the death.  This was by no means intended to be the only contact or support that person received, but it was intended to insure that in a large congregation these people were not forgotten, nor were their griefs forgotten.  I got help in the content of the letters from some folks in the area who work with grief counseling, but I customized them to fit the particular, individual situation.  And the schedule and letters helped me in my ministry of prayer for these individuals and their families.  (I also could more easily mark those important anniversaries of marriage and death in the years following that first year, because I had the information in a computer file that reminded me when one was coming up a week in advance.)  It sounds almost perfunctory, but I assure you it was anything but that; the comments I got over the 3 years I wrote and sent these letters reminded me often of just how little it takes to bring comfort to those who mourn.  

   Again, this is not meant to be the only ministry that happens; but as one component, it is doable even in a busy, growing congregation.

dkeener

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2009, 12:25:14 PM »
OK, OK I take it back. Bad choice of words. By "canned" I simply meant that the key to any training is not the material but the people who use it. We have Stephen Ministry in our congregation and it is an excellent source of training (though I do believe it is too structured and clinical). And lets be honest, though everyone may benefit from Stephen ministry training' not everyone is suited to be a Stephen Minister. Everyone, however, is capable of the compassionate acts of kindness that spring from the Body of Christ. A team of dedicated Stephen Ministers is a blessing to any congregation but they are no substitute for a compassionate and caring Christian community.

Timotheus Verinus

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2009, 01:42:58 PM »
OK, OK I take it back. Bad choice of words. By "canned" I simply meant that the key to any training is not the material but the people who use it. We have Stephen Ministry in our congregation and it is an excellent source of training (though I do believe it is too structured and clinical). And lets be honest, though everyone may benefit from Stephen ministry training' not everyone is suited to be a Stephen Minister. Everyone, however, is capable of the compassionate acts of kindness that spring from the Body of Christ. A team of dedicated Stephen Ministers is a blessing to any congregation but they are no substitute for a compassionate and caring Christian community.

To the question, I don't disagree. We look to each other for care. But we have to be realistic as well. This is true in our bringing the Gospel to each other. I do not simply say, "Go be compassionate.. Care."   Well I do but, I get the following back from about 90 % of those I say it to.

"How do I do that?" Platitudes only go a little ways in answering. Too often our people say, "That's not who I am, I'm sort of the quiet person who just cleans up after the pot luck." and that's true, and that's a part of caring too. And while my wife is a Stephen Minister, and I have been in churches with good programs, I don't always use the formal SM materials. But I have to admit we use the principles and understandings to answer that question. Every one can involve in contact care if they are given the tools to do so comfortably. These are scriptural tools. It's really not much more than organizing these in meaningful ways that connect to the lives we all live. But it helps if those who've walked there before, hold our hands to show us how.

We need to consider that Grandma doesn't live in the house with most of us any more. She's in a condo in Phoenix and goes to Jeff's church.  Any way we can connect your Grandma with my niece, My wife with your aunt, is a good thing these days.

TV
« Last Edit: December 26, 2009, 02:03:27 PM by TVerinus »
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Erme Wolf

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2009, 03:21:07 PM »
OK, OK I take it back. Bad choice of words. By "canned" I simply meant that the key to any training is not the material but the people who use it. We have Stephen Ministry in our congregation and it is an excellent source of training (though I do believe it is too structured and clinical). And lets be honest, though everyone may benefit from Stephen ministry training' not everyone is suited to be a Stephen Minister. Everyone, however, is capable of the compassionate acts of kindness that spring from the Body of Christ. A team of dedicated Stephen Ministers is a blessing to any congregation but they are no substitute for a compassionate and caring Christian community.

   Please don't take this as being argumentative if I disagree with you, just a little.  I come from a particular perspective on this subject, which is that my mother suddenly became a widow at age 45 with 3 young children to raise.  I agree with you that everyone "is capable of the compassionate acts of kindness that spring from the Body of Christ."  However, everyone is not given the gift of helping widows, or of consoling those who mourn.  It doesn't make them bad Christians; it just means that their gifts lie elsewhere.  Some (perhaps many) are capable of the immediate response, the short-term help in the midst of the crisis of death, funeral, and burial.  Others are given the gifts of long-term listening, support, guidance and (sometimes) confrontation that are needed as the weeks turn into months and years of dealing with the loss of a spouse, partner, parent, or child. 

    It does take a village to raise a child, and my experience is that the village of my childhood congregation came together pretty well in the years following my father's death.  (Not perfectly, but most of the time folks showed up when it was important. And showing up is 95% of life.)  A lot of that took place in the immediate weeks after my father's death.  There were fewer folks that did that kind of caring work in the years that followed, but those that did were crucially important.   I remember hearing my mother speak of the importance of hearing from those who had dealt with the death of a spouse, of their promise to be there for her when she needed to talk.  In that case this happened spontaneously (perhaps in part because my family had been part of this congregation for years), but those kind of conversations sometimes need to be organized in order to have an opportunity to take place.  My mom said that just knowing in advance that she would experience a time of intense anger with my father for having died and left her, helped her get through that part of grieving. 

    Any training that helps people become more comfortable with talking about grief, and gives them the tools to exercise their gifts as members of the Body of Christ for those who are grieving, is worthwhile, in my estimation.     

miss daisy

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2009, 07:07:40 PM »
I am a widow since 2000. 18 months later my son committed suicide. My faith family was supportive. But my comfort came from worshiping. From going to the Lord's Table. The love of family and friends of course is surely welcomed. If someone had come on with a program I'd have probably refused. My husband died a couple months before Christmas. I put together family albums for the family, with my husband's family's family pictures. I gave the kids pictures of their grandpa when he was a little boy and graduation.
It was tougher when my son died. But worship was my greatest comfort. Maybe others are different than myself. I learned as a little girl that death was a part of life. We kids went to all the funerals with our parents. Oh yes we were sad. But my mother who died when I was 13 always would say, it's ok to cry Doris, Jesus cried too!

If a widow has no family and doesn't drive, yes offer to pick her up for church, for groceries or just out to lunch. Shovel her walks if she is older. Or take the kids to the park if she is a young mom. But these are also automatic usually in these cases.
My thoughts we don't need programs.

vicarbob

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Re: Helping Widows Among Us
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2009, 07:16:55 PM »
May the LORD continue to be with you during your grief, Miss Daisy. Truely the LORD is given and received in and through the Holy Meal. So too in the arms of family, friends and the boy from church with the shovel on a snowfilled day.
And to my brother george......you just might find out you ain't the only gourmet cook in the congregation ;)
Be in GOD's grace,
The piT