Devotional Thought for Today – 04/27/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part XVII

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Over the last 16 articles in this series, we have looked at a number of things dealing with Grief as they relate to Chaplains. Today I hope to summarize and close the series.

Psalm 34:18-19

Everyone will experience some form of grief at some point in their lives. From the beginning, we made it clear that we consider the primary mission of a Chaplain to be to provide Compassionate Care, Comfort, and Counsel (4 C’s) to those assigned to them.

We began by giving a few general thoughts on Chaplaincy and a list of some hotlines for crisis situations. Next, we began looking at grief itself by listing the traditional 5 Stages of Grief and spent the next 6 days looking at them and then the more modern 7 stages of grief.

The article in the series was one of the most important (in my opinion) it was a list of some dos and don’ts that I have gleaned over the years. Believe me when I say I made a lot of don’t in order to figure out the dos. Finally, we defined Chaplain’s duties and responsibilities in general and then in specific job settings over the remaining article.

We looked at many things but, we did not look at the individual, the patient, the victim, in whatever the situation the Chaplain finds themself dealing with. I remember studying or reading (I honestly can’t find the reference) a Client’s Bill of Rights, in reference to the Stages of Grief:

  1. Your grief is unique to you and you have a right to experience your way. – The grief process is different for everyone and we can not force someone into a mold or pre-designed recovery program.
  2. You can talk about your grief in your own way. – Some folks naturally open up and want to talk others tend to be more retrospective. Again we can not and should not force them. Good Chaplains are good listeners.
  3. You have a right to be very emotional. – Most folks experience a multitude of emotions when grieving and that is okay, as long as the emotions are not harmful to themselves or others. Another thing to be watchful for is emotional outbursts, crying and even anger are common. These emotions can be draining so listen to your body get the extra rest you need.
  4. You have the right to a Funeral – COVID really hurt many in more ways than one. The inability to hold traditional burial rituals denied people the ability to mourn. Even “non-religious” folks usually adhere to this ritual as a way to mourn. It is there right.
  5. Religion plays a big part in many grief situations. We mentioned this before, this is not an opportunity for Chaplains to push religion, but to practice their 4-C’s no matter the person’s beliefs.
  6. Why? – You have a right to search for answers this is common and sometimes healthy (I say sometimes because it can become an unhealthy obsession) by encouraging folks to seek answers many times we are encouraging them to open up to the simple truths.
  7. Remembrance You have a right to your memories especially of all the good times. It prepares us for moving on with the full grief process and life.
  8. Life – You have a right to move on with your life, no matter how crappy you feel initially there is hope and things can get better.

Although the above is more tailored towards the death of a loved one, it is applicable and adaptable to any situation. There is so much more that could (and maybe should) be written. There are of course limitless resources on Grief counseling available via the internet. As with any source (including this one) I encourage everyone to be a Berean (Acts 17:11) and do due diligence in verifying the truth and effectiveness of the material.

I pray that this series has somehow edified you and Glorified God.


I found the following perspective on Grief very interesting, I hope you enjoy reading or listening to it.

Trauma, Pain, and Loss: A Doctor’s Story of Faith and Healing

In this interview, Katie Butler discusses her work as a trauma surgeon working in the ICU and shares what it was like to be inundated with life and death situations day in and day out.

She explains how she coped with the stress of the job and eventually began to see God’s grace at work even in the midst of deep pain and tragedy. She also shares what she saw working in a hospital at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/09/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part – VIII

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Today we continue our series by looking at the last stage of the 5 Stages of GriefAcceptance.

Many times as Chaplains and Ministers we never see this stage as the individuals we are dealing with have gone home or moved to another facility. That does not make it any less important to understand, mainly because it is the goal or end mark of the grief process.

If I may use an analogy (I hope it is not to bad of one) I think of this stage like getting ready to move. Being retired military and a missionary we have moved many times over the years, to many to remember. Each time it gets harder to seperate from friends and family. Yet, that is just what we must do seperate the old and prepare for the new. As in moving we pack up our old memories and prepare to make new ones. That does not mean we forget them, never, we just pack up and prepare to move on from them.

Another caution is that someone showing signs of acceptance DOES NOT always mean a wholesale transformation out of Grief. Folks can slip back into “lower” stages easily, especially those prone to depression and other mental health issues. Restrained encouragement, can go a long way here when someone reaches out and shows the beginning signs of acceptance.

Acceptance doesn’t mean someone is okay with the loss, illness, injury, situation, etc. it just means they have or are beginning to accept it as reality. The pain, anger, depression all seem to lessen and they can move on with life, albeit in a new way. One of the greatest tools in someones tool box is PST, Positive Self Talk. If they say it they can start to believe it. Here are some examples of this:

  • Death of a FriendI was so blessed to have many years with them and will always cherish those memories.
  • Job or Financial LossI will recover from this and find an even better job.
  • Terminal IllnessI will have an opportunity to get my affairs in order and spend time with friends and family
  • InjuryOkay, so I can’t climb ladders and work construction anymore but I still can ride my trike

Once again I think it prudent to state the mission of Chaplain/Ministerial personal is to provide Care, Comfort and Counsel for the Grieving. In this the Acceptance Stage, we need to be that encourager, God’s cheerleader if you will, reminding them of all He promises and the hope for tomorrow, The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];

Habakkuk 3:17–19 (ESV) - Habakkuk 3:17–19 ESV - Though the fig tree… |  Biblia

Habakkuk 3:17-19


Additional Information/Resources:

Acceptance: Case Study

Kübler-Ross and Kessler use the story of Keith to illustrate the acceptance stage of grief.

Keith’s son was randomly shot by a gang member while walking home from a sports arena. In the months that followed his son’s death, Keith and his wife were consumed with anger as they spent their days and nights investigating their son’s murder.

A well-meaning friend tried to tell Keith that he needed to “move on” and “accept” his son’s death, which only further angered Keith. While Keith could acknowledge the reality of his loss, it was unrealistic for his friend to think that Keith should have found some peace with it so soon after his son’s death.

After the killer was caught, Keith became consumed with the trial. After the trial was over and the killer was convicted, Keith had to contend with his grief and emptiness. There was no longer a trial to distract his attention.

In the 5 years that followed, Keith found acceptance, or so he thought. He felt the acceptance drain out of him when he heard that his son’s killer was up for parole. By the time the parole hearing rolled around, Keith was once again filled with anger. He attended the parole hearing and was struck by how quickly it was over. He saw the tears of the killer’s father when parole was denied. For the first time since his son’s death, Keith realized that there were other victims of this crime.

And for the first time, his anger was replaced by curiosity. Keith approached the killer’s father. He wanted to learn about the killer and what had led him to this place. Over the next few years, the two fathers formed an alliance to help gang members stop the violence. They visited many inner city schools to share their story.On Grief and Grieving, pgs. 27 & 28, Kübler-Ross and Kessler write: “Keith’s acceptance was a journey that was deeper than he ever expected.

“And it happened over many year, not many months or days. “Not everyone will or can fully embrace those who have hurt us, as Keith did, but there is always a struggle that leads us to our own personal and unique acceptance.”

5 Tips For Dealing with the Acceptance Stage of Grief

  • Understand that acceptance is learning to live with your new norm where your loved one is no longer here. Understand that you will never be okay with the fact that your loved one died. {or that you have a terminal disease, life changing injury, etc.} Acceptance is a process that we experience, not a final stage with an endpoint.
  • Be patient with yourself and don’t expect yourself to reach the acceptance stage of grief quickly. The process could take years. You could also ebb in and out of the acceptance stage.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and write in it daily. Make a note of anything that gave you even the briefest moment of relief from your pain. As examples: a memory of your loved one that made you smile; a visit from a neighbour to see how you are doing; a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Keeping a gratitude journal will help you look for things in your day that are positive, no matter how small they may seem to others. As you read back through your gratitude journal, you may find yourself growing in your “gratitude attitude”. Remember, acceptance may simply be having more good days than bad. {Write a prayer journal, keep promises fulfilled by God, think of Glories seen and known}
  • Find ways to commemorate the life, love and legacy of the person that you miss. {memorials are one thing, just be cautious not to “enshrine” someone to the point of idolizing}
  • If a year has passed since the day your loved one died {or life changing event occured} but you still feel “stuck” in your grief—your mourning still feels intense—see a professional therapist.

The above with my adds, from: 5 Stages of Grief & How to Survive Them


How can we learn to trust God like the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:17-19)?

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/07/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part VI

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Today we continue our series by looking at the third stage of the 5 Stages of GriefDepression.

Like so many other things Christians with enough faith should never get is depressed. At least that was the story we got told about my wife’s condition from a so called well meaning “friend”. Of course, this well-meaning person also was not a doctor and did no investigative questioning before blurting out the statement. I mention this not for sympathy, but to underscore the need for Chaplains and Ministers to make all due diligence in understanding the condition and history of those they are serving. I know with HIPAA this can be daunting but being well informed can greatly help in our care, comfort and counsel process.

I have yet to meet anyone going through the grief process that does not experience Depression in some manner. The obvious signs will usually manifest themselves as feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness, lack of energy, and other very detrimental effects that may affect the individual. It is important to note that these can be sublime and hidden in some folks. Again, using my wife, for example, she suffered a stroke due to poisoning before we met. She suffers from depression that is treated with counseling and medication. Her response to loss, like the recent death of her mom, is “I’m alright” even though she clearly was not. Like most folks (estimates as high as 67% of people suffering from depression) She just tries to grin and bear it. My wife because of her medical condition processes things differently and we (chaplains/ministers) need to be on the alert for this and any out of the “ordinary” situation and know when we are in over our heads. Here is a good list of types of depression.

So, what is depression? First depression is not just being sad. I lost my wedding band a few months ago, I was sad (even a little afraid of what my wife would say 😀)) but not depressed. Depression is sad on super steroids. It is constant here is the clinical definition:

The clinical definition, based on the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-5), is “a period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had a majority of specified symptoms, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth.” This definition excludes grief after mourning.

Before we move on I think it would be helpful reminder to list some of the things that one could encounter as a Chaplain/Minister in the Grief process that could lead to depression:

  • Trauma
  • Painful past experiences (PTSD)
  • Chronic Pain
  • Incarceration
  • Job loss or cut in pay
  • Financial problems
  • Parenting concerns and raising respectful, resilient kids
  • Loss
  • Life-changing illness
  • Marriage/relationship issues

The second thing to note about depression is that is often MISDIAGNOSED. Far too often healthcare professionals and Chaplains/Ministers are quick to say someone who has experienced one of these issues is depressed. Many times they are simply melancholy, which means intense sadness but a far cry from clinically depressed.

Another thing that might surprise some is that stage 2 (ANGER) can rear its ugly head here again. Let me explain, folks can socially withdraw a clear sign of depression setting in, if you try and force them out of that they can become hostile. Other symptoms of Grief/Depression include:

  • Can’t concentrate or think straight
  • Restless and anxious
  • Poor appetite/ Weight loss
  • Sad demeanor
  • Dreams of the deceased or even talks to them
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Can think of nothing but the loss, illness, or event…
  • Makes up reasons for the loss, many don’t make sense
  • Dwells on mistakes, real or imagined, that he or she made with the deceased

The last thing I have learned about this stage of Grief counseling is in this stage of Depression, where folks begin to address feelings that have been put off (consciously or unconsciously) such as abandonment, helplessness, loneliness, fear, despair, agony, etc. These are things that they did not look at during the stages of denial, anger, and bargaining.

I am not a professional Licensed Christian Counselor/Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist, if dealing with my wife’s condition has taught me anything, it is I need to be involved and I need to leave much of that stuff to the professionals.

The Tree Planted By Streams of Living Water (Psalm 1) - YouTube

Psalm 1:1-3

As the Psalm says, we can be that care comfort, and wise counsel of the Lord’s Law to those who are in need. I am convinced it is here that Chaplains/Ministers can have the greatest impact. Again offering the care, comfort, and (compassionate) counsel that God has called us to do.

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/06/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part V

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Today we continue our series by looking at the third stage of the 5 Stages of GriefBargaining.

Everytime I think of someone trying to bargain with someone, (I am speaking under duress of some sort) two things come to mind (neither advantageous), first is the legend of Robert Johnson the famous blues artist of the 1920-30’s. The story goes he made a bargain with the devil at the Crossroads of Hwy 49 and 61 here in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He fame and fortune were short live however as he died young in 1938. The second is folks who want to play let’s make a deal with God. Jewish talk show host Dennis Prager addresses the issue of deal-making in his book Think a Second Time:

I have come to realize that many religious people, of all faiths, believe that they should be able to avoid the calamities that afflict the less pious. They believe, in effect, that they can make a deal with God — ‘I’ll do what You want so that You do what I want.’

It should be apparent that both of these example do not have a “happy or expected ending.” This problem in both is selfishness. The person is asking for a self centered goal, I want because I want, or I am entitled to it and you shouldn;t withhold it from me.

In our study we need to remember a couple things. First Not everyone goes through all stages, or in the exact order. Yet Bargaining really does naturally follow Anger. Once the anger has begun to subsided we tend to try and work out solutions, anything to alleviate the pain we are in or anticipating, even if they may not be the most rational at the moment. It begins with trying to figure out how one could have and should have done things better and usually ends up with statements like:

  • ‘heal this person God and I will change my life around’
  • ‘I promise to be be good if you just let ____ live’
  • ‘I will get the counseling I need if you can stop him/her from dying or leaving me’

It is important to note that folks are feeling helpless both emotionally and physically and we can cause more harm than good if we approach this wrong.

Biblically the question has always been can we bargain with God? My answer is, Yes and No, which is probably not what you expected or wanted to hear. So let me give you some examples that seem to indicate we can bargain with God:

  • Abraham, in Gen. 18:16-33, when he pleads with the Lord over the fate of Sodom
  • Jacob, in Gen. 28:20-22, Jacob make a vow to God concerning finding a wife
  • Jephthah, in Judges 11:30-32, The Amorites have said no to peace so Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: ‘If you give the Ammonites into my hands…
  • Hannah, in 1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah is barren and made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will…

If we look at each of the above scripture it would appear that these individuals struck a bargain with God, for God fulfilled their requests. All these folks had one thing in common they were desperate and seemingly had nowhere else to turn. Yet to imply they “Bargained” with God is to say they held a Low View of God. Which their stories reveal to be false.

For He has not despised nor detested the suffering of the afflicted;

Nor has He hidden His face from him;

But when he cried to Him for help, He listened.

PS 22:24

So how does this apply to Chaplains and Ministers dealing with grieving folks? First we need to encourage them to pray. We need to encourage them to pray in the right manner. Encouraging them to pray in a manner that Bargains or Negotiates with God is wrong. Praying to God for comfort, clarity, healing, etc. assumes He is sovereign over all things. It is not about making a trade it is about putting God’s will first. Now, caution here I am in no way suggesting shoving doctrine or theology down some grieving souls throat. I am encouraging Chaplains/Ministers to guide them (provide that care, comfort and COUNCEL) in praying correctly.

Okay, I hope you can see why I said Yes and No, while seemingly “bargaining” with God. Since God is in control of all things, He wants us to, and expects us to intercede, on behalf of others and even ourselves. This is where we can be most effective, when grief has no voice as I said yesterday, is can become malignant, our job as I see it (care, comfort and counsel) is to guide them (again for the short time they are usually with us) through the grief process. Here in the Bargaining Stage guiding them to “righteous bargaining” or properly put intercession.


How to Deal With Negative Emotions and Stress

How Do Christians Deal With Stress?

How to Overcome Negative Emotions and Feelings

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/05/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part IV

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As we continue this series, today will look at the second stage of the  5 Stages of Grief, ANGER. I remember one being told that “a good Christian never get angry” and being a young immature believer I thought that to be true, NOT!!! Christ was angry, are we not to follow His example? The difference is He had and so should we righteous anger at things that were an abomination against the Law(s) of God. One of the best explanations for this can be found here.

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18

Of course in the grief process, the Anger with which we are concerned is slightly different. After the initial onslaught of emotions, including phase 1, denial, usually comes anger. Folks can be angry at any number of people or things and their anger can range from pent-up emotions to physical outbursts. Their anger is a result of their having lost control of the situation.

Some typical objects of anger are:

  • Themselves – Why couldn’t I help, I could have been there, I could have done something…
  • God -Why would God allow that to happen?
  • The deceased, or infirmed – How could they leave me?
  • The healthcare providers – They could have done more, they didn’t do enough, …
  • Hospitals – The VA *^#*^, We should never have admitted them there,
  • Anyone Offering Help – You don’t understand, you can’t know how I am feeling

Some Symptoms of Anger to look for are:

  • Irritability especially if it gets very bad
  • Ongoing preoccupation about what happened and why
  • Addictive or harming behaviors to self or others
  • Anxiety, Fear, Depression
  • There may be behavioral overreactions(outburst)

What can we do?

Again I can only go off my years first in counseling and then the practical application of all I learned when I have counselled others:

  • First is empathy and not simple sympathy especially in this stage. Someone who is angry even if not at you can easily turn on you (see last point above.
  • Second, allow the person to be angry, they need to get it out and not internalize it so it festers and grows malignant. Now of course we do not want them acting out harmful anger at themselves or others.
  • Try and ask probing questions, with grace and CAUTION, to get to the root of the anger, why are they angry, what is the true source of their anger.
  • If possible, offer to help them face the challenge, pray with them at a bedside, hold a prayer service, escort them to a funeral or gravesite, maybe speaking with hospital administration or a doctor…
  • Of course, if they seem stuck in the anger stage of grief, we need to make every effort to refer them to a certified Christian therapist, grief counselor, or psychologist.

Remember our job is to provide Care, Comfort, and (Short Term) Counsel while these individuals are assigned to us. We are not (at least most are not) long-term counselors, let us leave that to those professionals and be what God has called us to be Ministers/Chaplains.

Other Resources:

Dealing with Sorrow

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/01/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part II

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Yesterday, we began this series by explaining the goal to be: to attempt to write a series of posts using mainly the Psalms as text that can be used to provide comfort to those Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying. This was mainly to be from a Chaplain/Ministerial view but hopfully applicalble and helpfull to all.

For me, as a Christian Chaplain, all roads lead to Christ so our first post began with a quick look at Christ, the Great Physician. I can not imagine trying to comfort someone who is completely against the Bible (think Richard Dawkins) with scripture. So the first thing is a triage of sorts to find out about them. As I should have noted yesterday this is not a CONFRONTATION, but a friendly get-to-know-you session. Remember the goal, mission call it what you will of the minister/chaplain is to provide care, comfort, and counsel.

Lamentations 3:31-33

One of the first lessons I learned when dealing with those “suffering” was they are grieving. No matter the person or situation, loss of job, divorce, illness, death, etc. grief is inevitably involved. I began my Chaplaincy working with the incarcerated and even the toughest of those men and women, grieve (even if they don’t show it). Having a right understanding of the grief process is critical to ministering to them.

When I began my journey I was told and taught there were 5 Stages of Grief:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression1
  • acceptance

1 Note some modern text now add two other stages in-between depression and acceptance. They are 1) The Upward Turn– This is where you finally begin to feel better and see the light 2) Reconstruction and Working Through – begins to start to work through the aftermath of loss and take control of your life.

The highlighted link above gives an expanded explanation of each stage. What is important is after meeting and “triaging” a person to understand what stage they are in. It is completely different talking to someone who is in the anger stage after a bitter divorce compared to someone who has just lost a loved one to cancer.

One common denominator in all grief counseling I have encountered is the lack of control someone feels. A common theme is “I could have or should have done…” Even if they do not directly blame themselves they feel a sense of loss of control so great it can in a sense paralyze them emotionally and even physically. That is where we as ministers/chaplains come in to provide that care/comfort and counsel helping them get through their situation.

One last reminder, as noted yesterday, that going it alone should never be an option for anyone. Be sure if you are not a Minister/Chaplain are experiencing grief, are hurting, or have suicidal thoughts you seek help immediately. see links here.

RESOURCES:

C.S. Lewis and the Five Stages of Grief

How to Cope with Grief

Understanding the Grieving Process – Focus on the Family

A Biblical Model of Grieving

Understanding and Recognizing the 7 Stages of Grief