When someone is grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of a dream, "Minnesota nice" does not come in handy.
That above phrase is just one of the many things I am taking away from my week of continuing education (and it is only Tuesday). My class on Dying, Death and Continuing Care ended at noon today and now I am combing through my notes. The instructor, Ted Bowman, came with about 40 years of experience and gave us so many valuable nuggets, that it will take me a while to process everything. But one thing that does stick out is the above phrase and how I have conducted bereavement care. I know there are many things I need to improve on. I have been complimented many times on the funerals I have presided at and the care I gave up to the funeral, but its the continuing care after wards that I have sucked at (excuse my language). I need to make some changes. Grieving does not end after the funeral is done, but continues on for quite some time…months, even years. I am not saying that I have ignored people, but I am wondering if I have tried to rush people through their grief. I am wondering if my bad case of "Minnesota nice" has clouded the way I treat people. "Minnesota nice" may be nice, but not when it comes to grieving.
One of my favorite questions is: "So…how are you doing?" But I am not the only one infected with a bad case of "Minnesota nice", because often times the response I get is, "I’m hanging in there" or "I’m doing O.K." or "Not bad considering…". So instead of asking the questions that "demand" a "Minnesota nice" answer, I need to probe some more; I need to give people permission to grieve.
Another continuing care idea that I am taking away from the week (and something I thinking about implementing when I get home) is to remember, announce, and lift up death anniversaries in worship. I don’t want grieving people to think we (the church) have forgotten about them. So on the one year anniversary of someone’s death (or close to it) a special prayer would be lifted up in worship for the family. I have not completely worked this out yet on how this is going to happen, but want to do some kind of acknowledgment. What do you do? How do you remember death anniversaries?
Lastly…a resource I want to share with you all is a website we were given: www.adec.org. This is the Association for Death Education and Counseling. There are a number of good resources here and I have only scratched the surface. Check it out and let me know what you think.
I am so thankful I took this time for myself. I know it is tough on my wife when I am gone for extended periods of time and I do miss her so as well. But when I come back from weeks like this I feel so refreshed and energized. I come back feeling stronger and happier. So thank you to Salem and Belmont for allowing me to take these continuing education weeks. And thank you to my loving and supportive wife (honey…I’ll be home be you know it). I will be back to share more "valuable nuggets" with you as I comb through my notes more. In the mean time, take care and God bless (and I am not just being "Minnesota nice"…I mean it).