Grief and the Pastor’s Family

Grief. It’s an interesting thing. I’ve always said that weddings and funerals bring out the most interesting things in people. Something about high-stress situations, whether good or bad, just bring out attitudes, words and actions in people who are usually very reasonable. This isn’t always the case, of course, I know that. So, what does the pastor’s family do during a time of grief? David has always been amazed how he is welcomed into the most deeply grievous times for a family when one of their members dies. Pastors are “allowed” to be where others are not.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days because a dear member of our church passed away last week. This man was a dear person and left behind his wonderful wife. He had a quiet faith and a fantastic sense of humor–he was in a competition with Ben to see who could grow back hair the fastest! We had he and his wife over for dinner one night, and though we hadn’t known them a long time, it was a fun time, a relaxed time, and an evening we all really enjoyed. Their relationship reminded me a lot of my grandparent’s.

It was sad to both David and I when we learned of this man’s passing. He and his wife always had a kind word to say to us on Sundays, laughed with us, loved our children and were just sweet people. But, how does the pastor’s family grieve? Obviously, we’re allowed to be sad, to hurt and to grieve, but I think we, especially the pastor, are looked to for comfort and strength. Obviously, we don’t have the long history with the people in our church as the congregation has with each other. But, with the passing of this gentleman it has caused me to think. To ponder. To wonder, how is the pastor’s family supposed to react?

The only thing I’ve come up with is that we’re to react honestly. I don’t think it would be right for us to hide our sadness at the passing of one of the flock. I don’t think it would be helpful to pretend we were not also grieving. But, I also think we need to be a strength for the family, for the widow, for the parent. I think we need for them to know that we, as a pastor’s family, grieve with them, but are there for them if they need us to be. A pastor’s family is welcomed in when others are not simply because the husband (or in some cases the wife) is the pastor. We need to let people know we’re grieving too but balance it with strength so that we can comfort the member who is left behind.

It’s an interesting thing, grief. We don’t know how we’ll react until death happens. But, it does happen and our family is one that finds it hard to hide our emotions. And so, we won’t. We won’t shy away from the sadness we feel, but we will also let this man’s widow know that through Christ she can find strength.


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