Offering Hope and Encouragement in the Midst of Sorrow

                    Should Our Church Sponsor a Grief Support Group?

 

Several issues need to be carefully evaluated by your church prior to making a decision regarding whether or not you should sponsor a grief support group. 

Does our church have someone qualified to lead a grief support group?                   Although some grief support groups are led by individuals who have not suffered from the grief of loss themselves, in a widows/widowers support group there is little credibility if the leader has not experienced the loss of a spouse themselves. 
Does your church intend to organize their own group, or sponsor an existing grief organization in their church?  

There are grief organizations that provide resources for group leaders and facilitators in your church, providing videos and discussion materials.  In order to determine if your church is better suited to operate their grief support group through a grief organization, it is wise to first insure that the information provided is in accordance with your doctrinal statement. Secondly, materials should be evaluated to see how flexible and usable they will be to your specific group of individuals.  We are unaware of any organizations that offer resources specific to young widows/widowers.  There can be difficulty if resources do not meet the needs of those who have lost a spouse. 

What type of written resources are available to help widows/widowers in a support group setting?  Since the list is constantly changing with new books being brought to our attention, we recommend contacting our office for a current list of books we would recommend.  The difficulty in written materials is that young widows/widowers are not as interested in becoming students of the grieving process as they are being able to listen to one another.  Their basic need is to know that what they are feeling is normal and other widows/widowers feel the same way.  An additional concern with written materials is that ungodly perspectives have infiltrated many Christian books on grief  tainting the information with the teachings of Elizabeth Kubler Ross and others who view grief from an ungodly perspective.
Why not have a general grief support group offered meeting the needs of anyone who has lost a loved one?Widows/widowers have very specific grief issues far different than anyone else who is suffering from loss.  People who attend general grief support groups represent a wide variety of losses including loss of a friend, sibling, parent, grandparent, and occasionally those who have lost a pet.  The widow/widower is expected to receive comfort from those who have a vastly different experience with loss.  Although losing a friend, sibling, parent or grandparent is a significant loss, it is in no way similar to losing a spouse.  The widow/widower has lost their hopes for the future, their dreams, frequently their income, their child's parent, and sometimes their home, not to mention the person who has shared the most intimate and personal relationship known to mankind.  Having to sit in a group of individuals sharing such a deep personal loss compared to those who are grieving but have not suffered a loss so significant, is devastating to the widow/widower.
Aren't there common bonds with all those who are suffering loss regardless of the cause of that loss? 

The key element in grieving loss is whether the loss has occurred through death or through a decision which caused emotional or physical seperation. Though divorce and separation  cause a deep sense of loss and grief, the differences from loss due to death are significantly different and do not lend themselves well to a mixed group.