Is Your Congregational Grief and Loss Model Adequate?

closure grief loss transition Sep 08, 2020

[The following is the transcript of this week’s video. It’s not word for word but a close representation of what Cam said in his video. This transcript is provided for those of you who are unable to watch the video or would prefer to read the message instead of listen to it].

Is your congregational grief and loss model adequate? I asked you that question, not only for those of you dealing with congregations in transition as you come to the season of closure, but because we have a much broader reality going on in our congregations because of what's going on in our culture because of the pandemic. and COVID realities and restrictions. There's been a lot of loss.

There's been a lot of things to be grieved in order for congregations to be able to move forward. What I have to say today might be relevant for a lot of situations. Now, I'm speaking mostly to people who are involved with churches in transition but as you rub shoulders and come in touch with situations where people are dealing with the adversity because of something they have lost, I think you're going to find what I have to say helpful. We need to provide a more in depth training on this activity training session — this is a look at the 30,000 foot level.

Oftentimes, when we think of grief and loss, we think of the five stage process — some variation of the Kubler Ross model — some sort of roller coaster of loss and change. It’s helpful but only to a point.

Today I want to give you three principles to consider that are COVID sensitive.

1. Model the way.

Helping others starts with you as the leader. Check out last week’s video if you missed it - 

Is yours holistic enough? Does it have enough elements to be dynamic and helpful? You will only be able to lead the people that are under your as far as you yourself have gone. You need to be the change. And especially when you're dealing with the emotional aspects of grief and loss. If you have unresolved issues in your life as a result of your losses, your difficulties, adversities — the things you haven't properly grieved will impact your leadership. So number one — work on yourself, grieve your losses, get the help you need, surround yourself with the right community. Do the hard work of grieving your own losses and put yourself in a place of readiness to help others with their losses.

2. Facilitate storytelling.

There's a quote that I've modified. “People stay stuck in their trauma (in their grief) in the absence of an empathetic witness.”

I'm a firm believer that when you're dealing with groups of people, whether it's individuals, families or a congregation, they need the opportunity to tell their story. Now, obviously they need to be willing to tell their story but when they are, they need safe places where they can be do that. One of the best tools so many transitional leaders have used for healthy closure is the history wall. I’ve provided a document that summarizes how to use it.

Especially in these COVID sensitive times, we need to find a way to facilitate it. The bottom line is to provide that place to tell your story. In smaller groups and online are two ideas to consider. Share your ideas on how to facilitate story telling right now. I’d love to hear them.

3. Expand your grief model.

This week I want to describe it for groups. The puzzle piece model is expandable to fit any situation and isn’t limited to five steps or stages.

You’ve got empathetic listening (the power of allowing stories to be told). Get people to move their bodies in the process. Go for a walk by the river with guided questions. Normalize suffering — make it normal to go through loss and feel pain. Use writing to help people express themselves — something the history wall encourages.

Cultivate a growth mindset and avoid a fixed mindset. God wants us to grow through our losses. I talked last week about the grief cleanse which can be part of the history wall experience — where there is healing and resolution to past hurts and issues.

Leave a comment and let me know how you are helping people deal with their losses and challenges. As we step into this next season ahead of us, we're going to bump into situations where the people we're working with need the help of empathetic leaders and teachers who are able to help deal with the emotion uncertainty all around them. Step into the challenge — God is with you. 


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