3 Steps To Better Pastoral Care During The First Year Of Grief

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Today would have been their wedding anniversary. Two months ago his birthday passed, and no one from the church remembered as she grieved in silence. Will anyone mention their anniversary today?

The first year of grieving the loss of a loved one is filled with firsts: the first birthday without him, the first Christmas without her, the first anniversary alone knowing he will never be back.

With the hectic schedules of daily life, it is too easy for the church to let these days of deep grief pass without helping the surviving family member(s) as they walk this lonely new path of life.

3 Steps To Providing Pastoral Care In The First Year

Perpetual preparation:

The process should have begun a long time ago by ensuring the church management system (ChMS) has the following information on each person:

  • Date of birth
  • Wedding anniversary
  • Other key dates important to people in your community
  • Date of death

Process the list:

Once a month, run a report in your ChMS for key dates related to people who died within the past year. On the report include the name and contact information for surviving family members. Here are sample searches:

  • Everyone who died in this month one year ago.
  • Everyone who died within the past 12 months AND whose birth month is this month.
  • Everyone who died within the past 12 months AND whose spouse has a birthday this month.
  • Everyone who died within the past 12 months AND whose wedding anniversary is this month.
  • Everyone who died within the past 12 months since key holiday (Christmas, Easter, etc)

Prioritize and Schedule:

Schedule time one or two days per month to write cards to the surviving family member(s) who are a part of your church or community. Yes, cards such as sympathy, birthday, anniversary, and ‘thinking of you' will mean so much more than an email. Personalized stationery also works well. 

This gesture will mean a lot to people as they realize they are not forgotten on these painful days of that first year.


What other ways have you found to provide comprehensive pastoral care during this first year?

Image Credit: istockphoto.com/ leadinglights


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