Category Archives: Clergy Skills / Pastoral Care

How to Comfort Someone After Loss: Pastoral Care & Clergy Skills

As an ordained minister, Rabbi or pastoral counselor you have undoubtedly been asked to comfort someone who has just experienced a loss. There are so many things we should NOT say, things that will only make it worse, and I think we published a list of them here in the blog last year. Things like, “You’ll get over it. Death is a natural part of life!” and other horrors clergy are advised never to say. But we know as clergy it is our job to say SOMEthing in the way of comfort.

Here are a couple of good ideas I found today from this short, pithy article: What to Say When You Have No Idea What to Say

To comfort the bereaved — what to say to a person grieving the death of a loved one.

“‘I wish I could fix this. I can’t. It’s terrible.'” … you don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to act like you have the existential hug and kiss to make this situation better. She knows you don’t. What you can give is you, the comfort of your presence. The temporary balm of not-aloneness.”

When somebody interviews for their dream job but doesn’t get chosen:

“‘You are more than this situation. You are more than this job. You are more than your work life.’ Don’t waste his/her time with any dreck about how this job wouldn’t have actually been his/her dream job.”

When someone needs emotional support after a marriage or relationship ends, spouse moves out, the author says, “time to quote Rilke. ‘Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.'”

No feeling is final.  I like that. No emotion is going to outlast the eternity that is your soul. Try not to let a tragic emotion get the best of you. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling, however. Please give yourself permission to let it all come out. Every emotion is permitted, every emotion should have its say. Just don’t let it have sway (over you).