A Note from Chris Adams: Having just recently walked through the tragic death of a son in his late 20s with a friend in our life group, I’ve seen what Deb Douglas, First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA talks about in this article. Presence is the most important thing. No death is without pain, but various situations influence the immensity of that pain. This article has some great suggestions for us as we help women process death.
Death. We try not to talk about it. It embarrasses us. We shy away from the subject. We even try not to say the word. But death happens. Women die. Women lose people they love.
And we do not know what to say. Not to the woman who is dying and not to her family. As Christ followers, we know what happens with death; we have theological standing for discussions on death. Heaven exists, so does hell. There’s an old song that says death is just a change in address. That’s true. Death is a transition from this earth.
Death can get messy. What do we say when a woman is dying?
- First, it’s not as much about what we say; it’s our presence, our hugs, and our prayers that will make the most impact.
- The dying woman needs to talk. Her family probably does not want to talk about her death. There are questions to be asked and things she wants to say. Be present and listen.
- The ultimate healing for a Christ follower is to be in the presence of the Lord God Almighty. Death is the vehicle by which we gain that presence. Defining death as the ultimate healing reframes the concept into a more positive, easier to accept passing.
Death can get messy. What do we say when someone is not a Christ follower is dying or has passed?
- Share the love of Christ. Be bold in sharing how God gave His Son as our propitiation.
- Enlist prayer support.
- Explain how Scriptures describe heaven.
- If the person has died without Christ, pray for comfort for the family and friends.
- Explain that accepting Christ is a personal choice to be made. It is not God’s desire for anyone to die without salvation.
- Ask her. When talking to a woman about death, never assume she is a Christ follower. By doing so, either her salvation is reaffirmed (which will encourage her greatly) or it will allow for an opportunity for her to accept Christ.
Death can get messy. Unexpected deaths, tragic deaths. There are no words to heal the hurt. Our best response is to stop and pray. To hug. To be there. To meet needs so the family can focus on grieving.
Death can get messy. Visitations, wakes, and funerals are emotionally charged. Death can bring up past issues among family members, bring out jealousies, and unresolved hurts. Because each person grieves uniquely, family members may judge one another as not grieving appropriately, causing friction. Education is the key to preventing family rifts that turn into major earthquakes. Explain that each person’s personality is unique and each relationship with the deceased was unique; therefore, no two people will grieve the same way. And that’s OK.
Death can get messy. The grief process is long. It is not something that can be rushed. Grief is hard work. Grief comes in waves—waves that sometimes overwhelm us. Grief is not a linear process; we slide back and forth between waves of grief, from shock, bargaining, denial, acceptance, and normalcy. Grief is survivable. Women can get through the process.
Death can get messy. We may not know what to say, but we have a Savior who loves powerfully, who is faithful, who is ever present. When we do not know what to say, we can stop and pray to Him. Through His Holy Spirit, the words that will heal the hurts of death can flow through us. Death may be messy, but it is not the end. There is hope even in death.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.