Some bereaved people may feel overwhelmed by the decisions required after a death. Others will argue with family members over decisions such as cremation or burial, or an open or closed casket. Your first job may be to help family and friends come to consensus. Remind people that the wishes of the deceased, if known, are not as important after death as the desires of the survivors. If that means canceling a cremation, then encourage family members to do it.
Provide reassurance of hope, heaven, and resurrection, but avoid being glib or superficial. When a loved one dies, the loss is acute, and knowing that the person will be in heaven is not always an immediate comfort to those who are left behind-because they are left behind.
When dealing with a sudden death, identify a family friend or other volunteer who can help with some of the practical tasks that must be done for the funeral. Help the bereaved person prioritize what needs to be done. Aid in identifying a funeral home, writing an obituary, calling other family members and friends, etc.
It should be noted that the process of grief and bereavement will not be resolved by things returning to “normal” as the person understands it. A death always drastically changes the identity, roles, and responsibilities of the person closest to the deceased. Recovery will come as the bereaved person learns to cope with and take on the new dynamics and tasks of daily life.
Encourage family members to focus on basic needs-food, shelter, and safety. If these needs are not met, the critical emotional issues will be even harder to handle. People who are experiencing shock may neglect hygiene, forget to take necessary medications, or skip meals.
Ways of Coping
Assess the level of emotions present by using some of the suggested questions. Some people process emotions better by being busy, while others need to be alone. Help the former to find something simple to do, and help the latter to find a quiet place to be alone.
Urge the grieving person to not withdraw, but to find support in his or her friendships. Some friendships will be different (for example, if a spouse has died), but encourage the person to appreciate friends who still want his/her company, even without the other person.
If children are involved, counsel the family on strategies for helping them. Children often feel responsible for a sudden death, and teens can react in particularly complicated ways if a relationship to the deceased was tense. Children need, first of all, to feel secure. Reassure them that their family will be secure and stable. If a parent is in acute distress, try to ensure that the children are cared for by a familiar person who is calm.
Avoid statements that indicate to a child that God caused the death because He “wanted Mom/Dad/Grandma/Johnny in heaven with Him.’ Demystify death for children. Good funeral directors often answer a child’s curious questions. Help children begin to process feelings of anger, guilt, and abandonment. They need to know that such feelings are normal
Help the grieving person to understand that the pain will take time to subside. Encourage him/her to truly grieve. Assure the person that the grieving process is healthy and eventually productive.
Remind the person, when appropriate, of the stages of grief.
But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. -2 Samuel 12:23
After the death of David and Bathsheba’s first son, David’s only consolation was that eventually he would “go to him:’ While the child was alive, David had begged God to spare his life. When the child died, however, David was confident that the boy was with God and he would see him again.
Christian parents who have faced the devastation of the death of a young child can take hope in David’s faith that God will bring the little ones to Himself.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. -Psalm 116:15
We feel sad when loved ones die, and it is natural to grieve. God says that the death of a believer is “precious in the sight of the LORD.’ For believers, death is a gateway into the home in heaven where they ultimately belong.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. -1 Corinthians 15:20-22
Jesus gave us the promise of resurrection from the dead. He accomplished this by becoming human, dying, and then rising again. Someday in God’s new creation, death itself will be destroyed: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (l Corinthians 15:26). We must always be ready to die, ready to stand before God, and ready to thank Him for all He has done in giving us salvation.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.-2 Corinthians 5:6-8
Exactly what happens after someone dies? The Bible doesn’t go into much detail, but it does say that believers who die-that is, are “absent from the body” -will be “present with the Lord.” They will experience joy in the presence of God.
When Christ returns, believers who have died will be raised and the living believers will be changed. All will receive glorified, eternal bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
God has promised that His people will be with Him forever. We can take hope in God’s sure promise.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. -2 Timothy 4:7-8
Believers can face death with confidence, knowing that God is waiting for them. On the day we meet Christ face to face, we want to be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith:’
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on . . . that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them. -Revelation 14: 13
This chapter in Revelation paints a picture of stark contrasts-eternal life with God or eternal life without God. Where will you be for eternity? We can be certain of forgiveness and eternal life by trusting in Christ to cleanse us, make us children of God, and give us the gift of eternal life with Him.
Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality, by Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland
Death and the Life After, by Billy Graham
The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, by Thomas Lynch
When Your Father Dies, by Bruce Barton and Dave Veerman