Parish nurses can serve their congregations in a variety of ways. Each congregation is different, and each nurse brings different skills with him or her. My area of practice was in a hospice unit and so bereavement follow-up seemed a good place to start. I keep in regular contact with those who experience a loss.
Tragically, one of our families lost a cherished son to a motorcycle accident. Both Pastor and I kept in touch with the family with comfort from God’s Word. As time went on, Mom felt she needed more help and asked about a support group. So Pastor Loescher contacted John D. Schuetze, LPC, DMI, BC-TMH with Christian Family Solutions and it was decided that he would facilitate our first group. Both Pastor and I attended the eight weekly hour-long sessions, with the thought that I would facilitate in the future.
Professor Schuetze opened with a prayer and Scripture reading relating to God’s love and care for us. He established guidelines for the group: we are there to listen, care and support, we will listen to those who are speaking and not dominate the discussion, no one is compelled to speak, tears are a normal expression of grief, we may also enjoy times of joy and laughter, each individual may be in a different place in their grief journey, what is shared in the group will stay in the group, and we will begin and end on time.
Each session allowed time for learning about a different aspect of grief in general and also time for each to share something about their own journey. In our second session we bring a picture of our loved one for “show and tell.”
We have offered the grief support group a total of four times now with me facilitating the last three. Pastor and I keep in touch and I know I can go to him with any concerns. I have used two different resources for my opening devotion and/or closing prayer. Both are excellent!
- “Grief Doesn’t Have the Last Word – The promise of blessing in seasons of sorrow.” by Pastor Kurt Ebert. I assign reading and we discuss. Available through Time of Grace.
- “Purposeful Grieving – Embracing God’s Plan in the Midst of Loss” by Stacy E. Hoehl, Ph.D. An eight-week daily devotional that the group uses at home. Available through NPH.
We send information to nearby WELS congregations when promoting another group and some have joined us. Participants express appreciation for the opportunity with 6 – 10 in each group. I have noticed that members continue to care for each other as time goes on. We offer the group about once a year, depending on the need.
For more information about how to start a grief support group at your church, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Bolha is a parish nurse at David’s Star Lutheran Church in Jackson, Wisconsin.
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