As Stephen Ministers go through their journey of training and giving care to their care receiver, we are required to have ongoing continuing education once a month. Last month, Eleanor Shuping , gave the continuing education presentation on When Stephen Ministers Experience Grief. Eleanor has been a Stephen Minister for ten years and has had first hand knowledge of losing a care receiver. The death of the care receiver was such a shock to Eleanor and she decided to address the grief issue with our congregation.
When Stephen Ministers Experience Grief
This comes from two encounters—Beth Hayes’ loss of her husband and the loss of my ex-husband during the Thanksgiving holidays. Others of us have experienced losses of loved ones while serving as Stephen Ministers and we have also lost two Stephen Ministers, Barbara Kimball and Anne King. Others in our group have senior family members are in ill health. I am keenly aware that many of our care receivers have had significant losses in their lives that either brings them to a Stephen Minister for care or else the memories of the loss emerge during our journey with them.
My ex-husband, who I had been divorced from for many years, died the day after Thanksgiving in Daytona, Florida. Our family had just enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal. My daughter was extremely upset because the death was sudden after a fall. During my Christmas visit to my family in NOLA, my daughter was preparing her message for the memorial service to be held later in January in North Carolina where my ex’s family reside. Then when I finally returned to Shreveport, I was greeted by a letter from Social Security re: applying for widow’s benefits. This led me to gathering many documents long filed away to provide certification to the government. During this process I came across several of the care brochures we give to those when we make a Cardinal visit. The one category that caught my attention the most was “Dealing with the Stuff”.
Dealing with the “Stuff” after Death
Sorting and disposing of “the stuff” can be very challenging because of the memories—good and bad. memories bring up issues of hurts, hopes, anger about inheritance and cherished items.
Dealing with the personal belonging of the individual can be especially difficult – even bills of the person, or things you do not want in your home. The “will”—who gets what.
Each loved one grieves differently. At times there is so much disagreement between family members that they no longer talk to that person after the death. Good friends can sometimes help by giving us permission to let go of “things”. We sometimes use physical stuff to work through the “emotional stuff” of the relationship. The physical things can remind us of disappointments and unfulfilled expectations. The relationship may have been very problematic and the loved may not even “miss” the person at all—releasing the pain of the relationship.
NOTE: We will continue Part IIof the grief session in the June Columns. Thank you.