Some Thoughts on Tragedy for Fellow Ministers

advicePastoral care and self-care are seldom discussed topics in seminary or among peers. Because of the events of the past week, I thought I’d jot down a few things I know and practice – and need to remind myself about from time to time.  There are many more that could be added to the list. Perhaps you’d like to add something – please do.

Love the family. Cry with them; hug them.

Express sympathy with actions and few words.

Be present early, but give the family space too. There are many faces and voices the first few days. Give opportunity for others. Your most valuable presence is day one and the weeks that follow.

Get rest. Take the time to rest, relax, sleep, and care for yourself. Your physical health is important.

Maintain some regular components to your schedule. Tragedy and loss’ presence rarely fades in the first days. They’ll invade your thoughts, routine, and reactions. Be intentional and keep components of your regular schedule for emotional health.

Keep in Scripture. In fact, read more than you did last week. This is for your spiritual health.

Write down your thoughts to process later.

Honor the family’s wishes. Service and plans are meant to honor the life of the one lost and to encourage the family that’s present. Keep your words short. NO 30-40 minute sermons! Give the gift of hope.

Grieve yourself. It’s okay to be heartbroken. It’s okay to empathize. You’re human. Share with another your feelings of loss and heartbreak.

Give this advice. “You’re going to make a lot of decisions over the next several days. I want you to know that every decision you make will be the right one. Don’t second guess your decisions simply go to the next. Every decision is right!”