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Switch to Forum Live View Ministering to family at death of unsaved loved one
6 years ago  ::  May 09, 2008 - 8:58AM #1
Unitedbygrace
Posts: 189
Hi all.  Greetings to you and grace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ.  I have not started a thread in a long while and thought I would throw this out there.

This week I attended a funeral for a 40 year old man who was tragically killed in a car accident.  Actually two men were killed; so was his best friend.  The person that hit them was able to flee the accident and has finally turned himself in.  One of the victims was my sister's husband's brother (her brother-in-law). 

Anyway, I did not know if he was a believer (I did find out he was),  But during the time I did not know, I was faced with the pain of not knowing and with the question of how do I minister to the family.  BTW, they are Catholic (but he was a Christian)--the family does not show any fruit of Christianity although I do not know their hearts---yet.

The job of ministering came much easier when I found he was a believer; and will be easier in the coming days.

But my question to you is:  Have you ever had to face this situation?  How did you?  If not, can you consider how you would and share.  How would you present the gospel and the hope of Christ to a non-believing family whose child/brother. whatever had just passed on to hell?  Whatever you said would hurt them, condemn their beloved one to hell.  Of course, the funeral would not be the time or place to do that.  But how would you go about responding?

The Lord did help me through this (and before I had to adjust to it I found out he was saved).  But surely some of you have faced this with family or friends.  What would you say to the family at the funeral and how would you follow up later if at all?
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6 years ago  ::  May 09, 2008 - 5:10PM #2
miami-ted
Posts: 981
Hello ubg,

I know for me I generally try to steer clear of making any definitive remarks about where the dead are beyond, "Oh, if Joe trusted in the Lord Jesus he will be raised to life in the last days."  As you can see, I always try to leave the determination as to where they will spend eternity up to them and if the family wants to then say, "Oh, yes, Joe believed in Jesus!"  Then I will respond with an encouraging affirmative. "That's great" or "that's good.",etc.

My main concern in dealing with the relatives and friends of the deceased is to pray with them that God would be merciful to them and give them strength and comfort in this time.

I know that I was once asked to do a service for a friend who had no church affiliation or any evidence that he had a saving relationship with the Lord and I graciously turned it down because I wasn't sure that I could stand before an audience and give any assurance of where the deceased was going to be spending eternity that would have provided any hope for the relatives.

God bless.
In Christ, Ted.
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6 years ago  ::  May 10, 2008 - 10:18AM #3
Leight
Posts: 1,438
...the less said is always best......I say this for the reasons that the Lord has delibertly taken me through my own broken heart several times in order to impress upon me the feeling of grief.....at times like that, one should hugg and as best one can mourn with them.....words are "useless", indeed at times like that, it is God, who in silence, intructs the hurting...."He was a man of sorrows and aquainted with grief"....and again "I have come to heal the broken hearted".......on "Death and Dying" the grief process, the stages of denial, bargaining, anger and acceptance, is an excellent and I belive Godly resource that too should be used to "understand" the wounds of others.....the long and short, I suppose is that sorrow should be mininisterd to sorrow and grief to grief...."mourn with those who mourn".....we are called to be broken hearts that beat besides anothers broken heart..........indeed right now, I am getting a minor refesher course, in order that I may know what its like to streach my hands helpless and know that there will be no relief...
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6 years ago  ::  May 10, 2008 - 11:59AM #4
Anesis
Posts: 1,540
Leight, it also sounds like you are going through some grief of your own. Have you read "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross? She was quite the pioneer in death, dying, and grief. We have to remember, though, that her stages are not linear, and possibly not even cyclical. She identifies denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance as various stages of healing, but not everyone will experience each stage (I never went through the bargaining - why would I wish to keep him for myself, when he was now in the presence of the Lord Jesus? That would be selfish of me!).

Along with Kubler-Ross's stages, Rando has identified the 6 R process:
- recognize the loss
- react to the separation
- recollect and re-experience the deceased and the relationship
- relinquish the old attachments to the deceased
- readjust to move adaptively into the new world without forgetting the old
- reinvest emotionally in other people.

These are some of the things that your family will be facing right now. If you are not sure of the person's salvation, I would suggest removing spirituality out of it; however, when someone is in grief, they want nothing more than to hope their loved one is in a better place. So in acute grief, we might want to simply agree with their beliefs as they move through the grief.

Some things you can do:
- listen to the survivor retell (over and over and over) the story, and talk about the deceased
- ask them what special memories they have
- say "I'm sorry for your loss" (a survey was done on what to say, and very, very few things were helpful, but this one was one of the least offensive)
- let them know it's okay to 'feel the presence' of the deceased, and even to talk to them (even a person who is not spiritual may 'feel' this)
- remember that being there for someone is more a matter of attitude than technique. Sitting with them and saying nothing can sometimes be helpful, if they know you are grieving with them.

Keep in mind that men grieve differently than women. Your brother in law will experience the loss much differently than your sister. Men have less prolactin, which is necessary for tear production, so they do not cry as easily. Women have a thicker corpus callosum (the brain tissue which joins the hemispheres), which gives us a greater connection between feelings and words, so we are more verbal about our feelings. Psychologically, men have greater feeling of autonomy and independence, so their connections to others may not seem as binding as for women, and helps them come to acceptance easier.

Practically speaking, men 'do' while women 'be'. Your brother in law may find comfort in working more, doing physical activities (particularly activities they enjoyed together), or being creative. Men also tend to have limits. For example, they tend to believe that you grieve and then you get over it.

Your sister, being part of their family now, is part of their family system, and when someone leaves the family system, it means those who remain are going to have to adjust to new dynamics and perhaps new roles. If your sister's brother in law was the one who looked after their parents' yardwork, for example, that role will now fall onto someone else. Each person in the family system will grieve differently and in their own time and will have a unique way of coping and adjusting. At first, they may seem to be in a fog and become forgetful. It is a full time job to mourn.

How can you minister to them? You can 'be' with your sister, and your husband can 'do' with her husband. Because you have found out the brother was a believer, you can rest assured in his salvation, but if the situation ever comes up with a non-believer, I would suggest that you remove your own spiritual 'ideologies' from the situation, and play along with the beliefs of the person in grief - at least in the acute phase. As time goes on and they begin to come to terms with the loss, a person in mourning may be faced with their own mortality, which you can certainly use to minister the Lord to them. It is through the death of a loved one that many people find life. Death pushes the existential questions into our vision, and this is a good time to share the life and love of Jesus - as well as God's plan of salvation.
An
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6 years ago  ::  Jun 08, 2008 - 9:02AM #5
OneV
Posts: 2
To assume that someone is "unsaved" is more then a bit presumptious.

1.  You do not know their heart.

2.  You do not and never will fully comprehend the breadth and depth of God's love and mercy.
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6 years ago  ::  Jun 08, 2008 - 2:52PM #6
Unitedbygrace
Posts: 189
[QUOTE=OneV;550495]To assume that someone is "unsaved" is more then a bit presumptious.

1.  You do not know their heart.

2.  You do not and never will fully comprehend the breadth and depth of God's love and mercy.[/QUOTE]

OneV,

No I do not know their heart.  However, I would rather someone assume I did not know the Lord or was unsaved than to assume I was.  The difference could be heaven or hell.

As for your second comment, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? 

UBG
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6 years ago  ::  Jun 08, 2008 - 3:11PM #7
Unitedbygrace
Posts: 189
Hey An and others, I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for your comments.  They were/are helpful.

Several weeks have gone by now and I actually had planned on writing a letter to the various family members--sharing with them the love of Christ.  I have been so busy that i have not done so, but yesterday thought, "I will do that tomorrow."  Then today, when looking on b-net, I see this thread has resurfaced and it has nudged my heart to go forward.

As I already mentioned in the opening thread, the deceased was a believer and that makes this much easier.  I was able to offer comfort (via word pictures of heaven) to the family at the funeral.  However, now I want to offer them more.

An, your words on grief are helpful; I agree with much you said and have studied this somewhat in light of scripture.  I thought you might enjoy this:

Keep in mind that men grieve differently than women. Your brother in law will experience the loss much differently than your sister. Men have less prolactin, which is necessary for tear production, so they do not cry as easily. Women have a thicker corpus callosum (the brain tissue which joins the hemispheres), which gives us a greater connection between feelings and words, so we are more verbal about our feelings. Psychologically, men have greater feeling of autonomy and independence, so their connections to others may not seem as binding as for women, and helps them come to acceptance easier.



After Eve sinned, God pronounced a judgment.  That judgment said of Eve, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. " Gen 3:16.

The word sorrow refers to grief.  It is wrongly translated sometimes to say 'pain' and believers have thought it spoke of the pain we have during child birth.  But it does not.  It has to do with her part in the sin and how her children would never be a part of this beautiful paradise that she and Adam were thrown out of.  Additionally, they would live in sin and would have death upon them.  Eve would feel this sorrow gerater than Adam (as women will feel this type of sorrow more greatly than men) because God said it would happen.

As the mother of all, Eve would now see her own first two sons filled with sin, one even killing the other.  All because of the sin in the garden.  She would have increased conception since there would be need to continually fill the earth (because of death).  Oh what a great sorrow and grief that comes from the heart of a mother.  This sorrow runs far deeper than we truly realize, becaue this sorrow was a judgment placed by God.  ut what a wonderful judgment because it spurs the ehart to truth.

Please pray for this family and the words I will share with them.  Lord prepare their hearts.

UBG

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6 years ago  ::  Jun 08, 2008 - 2:52PM #8
Unitedbygrace
Posts: 189
[QUOTE=OneV;550495]To assume that someone is "unsaved" is more then a bit presumptious.

1.  You do not know their heart.

2.  You do not and never will fully comprehend the breadth and depth of God's love and mercy.[/QUOTE]

OneV,

No I do not know their heart.  However, I would rather someone assume I did not know the Lord or was unsaved than to assume I was.  The difference could be heaven or hell.

As for your second comment, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black? 

UBG
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6 years ago  ::  Jun 08, 2008 - 3:11PM #9
Unitedbygrace
Posts: 189
Hey An and others, I just wanted to take a minute and thank you for your comments.  They were/are helpful.

Several weeks have gone by now and I actually had planned on writing a letter to the various family members--sharing with them the love of Christ.  I have been so busy that i have not done so, but yesterday thought, "I will do that tomorrow."  Then today, when looking on b-net, I see this thread has resurfaced and it has nudged my heart to go forward.

As I already mentioned in the opening thread, the deceased was a believer and that makes this much easier.  I was able to offer comfort (via word pictures of heaven) to the family at the funeral.  However, now I want to offer them more.

An, your words on grief are helpful; I agree with much you said and have studied this somewhat in light of scripture.  I thought you might enjoy this:

Keep in mind that men grieve differently than women. Your brother in law will experience the loss much differently than your sister. Men have less prolactin, which is necessary for tear production, so they do not cry as easily. Women have a thicker corpus callosum (the brain tissue which joins the hemispheres), which gives us a greater connection between feelings and words, so we are more verbal about our feelings. Psychologically, men have greater feeling of autonomy and independence, so their connections to others may not seem as binding as for women, and helps them come to acceptance easier.



After Eve sinned, God pronounced a judgment.  That judgment said of Eve, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. " Gen 3:16.

The word sorrow refers to grief.  It is wrongly translated sometimes to say 'pain' and believers have thought it spoke of the pain we have during child birth.  But it does not.  It has to do with her part in the sin and how her children would never be a part of this beautiful paradise that she and Adam were thrown out of.  Additionally, they would live in sin and would have death upon them.  Eve would feel this sorrow gerater than Adam (as women will feel this type of sorrow more greatly than men) because God said it would happen.

As the mother of all, Eve would now see her own first two sons filled with sin, one even killing the other.  All because of the sin in the garden.  She would have increased conception since there would be need to continually fill the earth (because of death).  Oh what a great sorrow and grief that comes from the heart of a mother.  This sorrow runs far deeper than we truly realize, becaue this sorrow was a judgment placed by God.  ut what a wonderful judgment because it spurs the ehart to truth.

Please pray for this family and the words I will share with them.  Lord prepare their hearts.

UBG

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6 years ago  ::  Jun 14, 2008 - 7:26AM #10
OneV
Posts: 2
If the so called "UNsaved" person is dead, there is no reason to presume.

Also, I have  no idead what you mean by
"As for your second comment, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?"

What are you trying to say?
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