Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Friend is Grieving: WHAT can I Say?

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore is affiliated with the Center for Loss and Trauma. She directs the MISS Foundation, which is a, volunteer based organization committed to providing crisis support and long term aid to families after the death of a child from any cause. I find her reflections on grief to be insightful. Dr. Cacciatore’s most recent quote is as follows: No answer could ever be good enough for a parent's grieving heart. Well said Dr. Cacciatore!


I recently spoke at a training event for hospital chaplain volunteers. I of course emphasized the importance of being quick to listen and slow to speak. I tried to explain the concept of “ministry of presence.” And I also said that attempting to answer the questions that grieving individuals are posing is generally not a useful pursuit. But I did not go far enough. I should have said precisely what Dr. Cacciatore shares with a slight edit. I would go as far to say that no answer is ever good enough for a grieving person’s heart period.

Tomorrow I am officiating at a funeral for a 53 year old man, who leaves a wife and two young teenage boys. Later this week I will attend the funeral for a man whose daughter was murdered in 2008. I was involved in serving her family in my role as a law enforcement chaplain. He wanted to live long enough to see her killer convicted, which he did. Every individual that was close to these people have questions. But even the best answers I could conjure up in my mind would never be good enough.

Here is the good news: the pressure is off. We can serve those who are grieving deeply without feeling compelled to provide answers. We don’t have to wonder what to say. We can zip our lips with confidence and give all of energies to listening.

When I train new law enforcement chaplains, I always encourage them to practice the three H’s. They are as follows:

Hurry-Get over your jitters about serving someone in crisis and hustle to their side.

Hug-Be generous with your affection as it is fitting and appropriate.

Hush-You might as well hush, because no answer you can provide will good enough for that grieving person’s heart…

Thanks Dr. Cacciatore! When it comes to serving people in crisis, there is something new to learn everyday. 

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