Issues and Answers

Becoming skillful comforters

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Karen Nicola


Series Code: IAA

Program Code: IAA000469A

00:01 Part of the mission of Jesus Christ
00:02 was to heal the broken hearted
00:04 and he has passed that mission on to us.
00:07 Join us today on Issues and Answers
00:09 so that you can learn
00:11 how to become a skilful comforter.
00:46 Hi, I'm Shelley Quinn
00:47 and welcome again to Issues and Answers.
00:49 I'm just impressed to start this program
00:51 by reading something Paul wrote to the Corinthians
00:54 in 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 4,
00:59 he says, "Blessed be the God
01:01 and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
01:03 the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
01:07 who comforts us in all our tribulation,
01:09 that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble,
01:16 with the comfort with which we ourselves
01:19 have received from God."
01:21 And today we have returning with us
01:24 for the fourth time
01:25 author and grief counselor Karen Nicola.
01:29 And Karen is, has a ministry called Comfort for the Day.
01:35 And, Karen, thank you so much for coming back.
01:38 I'm so happy to be here.
01:39 We are just...
01:41 We don't want to let you go.
01:42 I know this is our last one with you
01:44 and we're so glad that you're here though.
01:48 Being a skilful comforter is something that
01:54 this is a teaching our church, every church the world needs,
01:59 because so often especially
02:02 if someone is going through bereavement
02:04 where they have lost a loved one people,
02:09 you know, remember that Art Linkletter show
02:11 "Kids Say the Darndest Things."
02:14 People say the darndest things if that's okay for me to say,
02:17 don't write me now but,
02:19 but people can say some very...
02:22 and they don't mean to but they'll say something
02:24 that's very insensitive and very painful.
02:26 Yeah.
02:27 So and the other thing that
02:29 I'm thinking off the top of my head is that
02:32 we also often...
02:36 If there's a funeral
02:37 we're good at that first month of offering comfort
02:41 and then life goes on
02:43 and we forget about those
02:45 who are going through bereavement.
02:47 So tell us today,
02:49 how to be a skilful comforter.
02:53 While becoming a skilful comforter
02:54 is not an easy process.
02:57 It's one that
02:58 does take a little bit of acknowledging.
03:02 Maybe I could improve and...
03:06 I think we can all say that.
03:08 So to improve of how we interact
03:11 with people in their loss, in their grief
03:14 and this would be for any of their losses,
03:16 I mean someone who has, you know,
03:18 has been diagnosed with a terminal illness
03:20 and they're going to lose their own life
03:21 or someone who is going through a divorce,
03:24 someone whose pet has, has died.
03:27 To genuinely comfort them is not fixing them.
03:34 And we're very good at stepping in and fixing
03:37 that's why the first weeks or the first months when we,
03:40 when we run and we bring the casseroles
03:42 and we bring the food
03:44 or you know we provide maybe a little bit of transportation
03:48 for a while or something like that.
03:49 We are in this doing mode and we think we're fixing.
03:53 But as we've talked
03:55 these three previous episodes that this is,
03:58 this is not something that ends,
04:02 the day of the funeral, at the memorial,
04:04 at the burial.
04:06 But this is something that's ongoing.
04:08 So how can we become skilful comforters
04:11 to take it through the ongoing time
04:13 and that's why I would like to explore.
04:15 But let's kind of start with the things we say.
04:20 You've got a list there
04:21 some of the things there in that bar,
04:24 on the side bar there,
04:25 some of those things that we say.
04:27 What are some of those things that we say that just are...
04:31 They're in a better place.
04:33 Yeah.
04:34 Get over it, move on.
04:35 It was God's will.
04:37 It was for the best.
04:41 Boy, this is very light writing here,
04:43 it's right or not.
04:45 You just need what?
04:47 To get over it,
04:49 need to move on, need to smile.
04:50 You need to move on.
04:52 Yeah. Yeah.
04:53 It just take its time you need to,
04:55 to stop living in the past.
04:57 Oh, how many times
04:59 we've heard that look on the bright side,
05:01 just keeps smiling,
05:03 I'm praying for you then you don't.
05:06 That one I am very adamant about,
05:09 you know, we will say, oh, I'm praying for you.
05:11 I'm praying for you.
05:12 Here's something that's interesting.
05:15 Is there anything I can do?
05:17 People are so, you know,
05:19 if somebody asks me
05:20 if they can do something for me.
05:22 I always say, no.
05:24 I mean, it's...
05:26 Now people who just show up with something
05:28 or do something that's different, you know.
05:34 These are some good things that we need to,
05:37 to watch out for saying...
05:39 We need to stop saying.
05:41 At least you have other children would be
05:43 probably the most painful.
05:44 Yeah.
05:46 Oh, I know how you feel.
05:47 I know how you feel is, is not a true statement.
05:52 Even if a, another woman,
05:55 my exact same age at 28 when I lost my son,
05:59 she would be the same.
06:01 We could not know how each other feels
06:04 because we had different relationships,
06:06 we had different issues with our children
06:09 and our losses in their death.
06:11 We might have a shared
06:12 experience of our feeling my loss.
06:15 But I can't say, I know how you feel.
06:18 They can't say that.
06:19 And some people are,
06:21 are very put off and understandably
06:23 so by just the blanket comment.
06:26 I'm so sorry.
06:29 Soon as I would tell you Shelley,
06:30 "Oh, I'm so sorry."
06:32 Then that puts you in a position
06:34 to try to console me.
06:39 So that is a really counterproductive
06:42 and one of the ways that
06:43 I help guide people through that is,
06:45 the natural thing is to say we are sorry,
06:47 we do feel badly for them.
06:49 So if we, if the, "I'm so sorry"
06:52 just naturally comes out of our mouth,
06:54 then let's finish the sentence.
06:56 "I am so sorry that you are living with this pain.
07:00 I am so sorry that you are experiencing this.
07:03 I'm so sorry that your mother passed away."
07:06 We finished the sentence and we don't leave it with,
07:09 "Oh, I'm so sorry,"
07:11 because now the grieving person
07:14 may feel some need to try to console us
07:16 and then what do they say, "Oh, it's okay."
07:19 None of it's okay,
07:21 it's not okay that someone is dying.
07:23 Yeah, it's interesting that you say that
07:25 because there is someone in my close circle
07:28 who is constantly saying,
07:30 I'm sorry if you mention something
07:32 and then I feel, oh, I've made them uneasy
07:35 and I do naturally,
07:37 and then this is over just day to day matters
07:40 so I do understand that, that's interesting.
07:42 So if the grieving person is then left to feel like
07:45 they've made someone else feel uneasy.
07:48 You know that we...
07:50 So we don't need to say that anymore.
07:52 We don't need to say, "I'm sorry."
07:53 When you say, "I'm so sorry."
07:55 Remember that's the beginning of the sentence,
07:56 it's not the end.
07:57 And then finish it.
07:59 Or replace the, "I'm so sorry"
08:00 as I really care or make a statement.
08:04 This must hurt badly for you.
08:08 Your pain matters to me, I'm here for you.
08:12 If you are. Yes.
08:13 Oh, yes, yes, yes.
08:15 Don't say that if you're not.
08:16 Just like saying that you pray for someone
08:17 if you're not going to and just,
08:19 you know, today's modern technology
08:22 and all the media that's out there
08:25 and social media and on Facebook
08:27 and someone will, will let the world know
08:30 that a loved one has passed away
08:32 in their family system
08:34 and you'll see, "I'm so sorry."
08:37 You now see prayers, prayers, prayers,
08:38 prayers or I'm praying.
08:41 And then how many of us will leave that Facebook post
08:46 and really fall to our knees and pray.
08:49 That's something that Lord taught me a long time ago is
08:52 if you say, "I will pray."
08:54 Do it either right, I mean do it right then,
08:57 because you can get.
08:58 I mean that is like making a promise.
09:01 It's a lie if you don't pray so...
09:03 And my memory isn't good enough to remember any time
09:06 even five minutes later that I said,
09:08 "I would pray for someone."
09:09 So whether I get an e-mail message
09:11 or a Facebook message,
09:13 I will pray in that response right then.
09:16 I will pray on Facebook,
09:17 in the responded message
09:19 and or I pray, write in my email and hit send.
09:23 So they've seen and heard my prayer for them.
09:26 They know they've been prayed for
09:27 and I know I've prayed for them.
09:29 That's wonderful.
09:31 Because I want to be a woman of my word
09:33 and not say it and then don't do it.
09:35 Sometimes, I think that we feel like, you know,
09:39 some people aren't easy around people
09:41 who are grieving
09:43 because they don't know what to say.
09:45 And I often feel like saying
09:47 as little as possible is the best
09:49 if you can get them to talking and listen,
09:51 it's more important than what you can say,
09:54 because you're at a loss for words,
09:57 you don't know what that person's experience is.
10:00 And you really, you know,
10:02 you might say I know what you're feeling
10:04 but you don't.
10:05 The more honest thing to say is that
10:07 I don't know what you're feeling.
10:08 Yeah.
10:09 Could you tell me?
10:11 Ask them questions that, that you feel that,
10:14 that they may be ready for,
10:15 and if they're not ready for it,
10:17 you can say, "You know, you don't have to say anything,
10:19 I just wanted to be with you.
10:21 Do you mind if I hold you?"
10:23 You put your arm around them.
10:25 It's really important to ask for permission.
10:31 May I pray with you?
10:33 Some people will say,
10:34 "No, I'm not ready to talk to God yet."
10:37 "May I give you a hug?"
10:40 Some people aren't huggers
10:42 and they don't want that touch.
10:45 They don't want to be taken into that
10:47 brink of feeling tender because...
10:50 And some people may be huggers but at that moment,
10:54 it's like it would be too much for them.
10:57 So to be a skilful comforter is to know what not to say
11:00 and take those out of our vocabulary are trite comments.
11:04 To be a skilful comforter means to be honest.
11:07 And to be able to say,
11:09 "I don't have an idea what you're going through.
11:12 I don't know at all.
11:13 I'd like to know so I can understand,
11:15 could you tell me."
11:17 Being the skilful comforter means I asked for permission.
11:20 One of them might be to say, "Would it be okay,
11:23 if I came over and brought you dinner tonight."
11:26 Instead of just dropping by with a casserole dish
11:29 and leaving.
11:30 But bring them dinner and eat with them
11:33 and let them know that.
11:35 Yeah, pain is uncomfortable
11:37 but you're not going to let that
11:38 uncomfortableness of their pain push you away.
11:42 See personally and I don't know if everyone is like this.
11:47 I am...
11:49 And I'm speaking I don't mean to say, I, I, I but it's,
11:52 we can only speak from our own experience.
11:55 I do not care for people to just pop in.
12:00 And I think when you're grieving even more so, that,
12:04 you know, and people have a tendency
12:05 to sometimes do that.
12:07 But it's something that I think asking permission.
12:12 Perhaps you can say, "I've made you a casserole.
12:17 I would love to drop it by would 5 o'clock be convenient
12:21 or something like this..."
12:23 because if you ask me if you can make me something,
12:25 I'll probably say no,
12:27 because I don't want to be a bother to you.
12:28 Right, right.
12:29 But if you as if you tell me
12:31 you've already made me something
12:33 and you want to bring it by,
12:35 then you're much more open to that
12:37 but you give that person the opportunity
12:39 to collect themselves before you go by.
12:42 And here's the thing about offering these kindnesses,
12:46 these courtesies, these interests.
12:49 They need to be ongoing.
12:52 Oh, that's a tough part...
12:53 Month two, three, six, ten,
12:56 for us the intensity of the pain
12:59 of Dawson's absence, our son, his absence,
13:04 that intensity came
13:06 six and seven months later after his death.
13:11 And by that time where is everybody else.
13:14 They're all back to life, you know,
13:16 and we're now in this pain all by ourselves.
13:21 And so being aware that someone's pain about the loss
13:27 and the death of a loved one will intensify as time goes on,
13:32 will help us as comforters.
13:34 Put it on the calendar.
13:35 Let's say, someone die today April 12,
13:39 pop out six or seven months later
13:40 and put it on our calendar
13:42 and say check in with Karen and see how she's doing now.
13:46 That's good.
13:47 And put it on the calendar
13:49 when we might know of
13:51 when that person's death might be
13:55 or when their wedding anniversary was
13:57 or when their birthday was
13:58 and make it a point to check in on that day with them.
14:02 Especially when it's a first.
14:04 Oh, especially in the first
14:06 but I'll tell you 30 years later.
14:07 Really...
14:09 Oh, my, if someone even remembers our son,
14:14 he's just such a treasure to me,
14:16 such a treasure.
14:17 What occurs to me is that
14:21 we live in such an insanely busy world.
14:26 Everything is so busy.
14:28 If you are a member of a large church,
14:31 it is so easy,
14:33 even here say we have under 200 members
14:36 but we have so much...
14:42 There are so many tragedies it seems.
14:44 It just seems like
14:46 Satan is increasing his attack on his people.
14:49 We have deaths,
14:50 we have people who are in, you know,
14:52 being diagnosed with terminal illnesses.
14:55 There's, there's so much pain
14:58 that one person unless
15:01 that was their full time ministry
15:03 and that's all they did.
15:04 It's difficult to keep up and we are probably all,
15:08 I will include myself in this,
15:10 we are all guilty of being very supportive
15:14 in the initial stages
15:16 and perhaps then as we see them inquiring,
15:19 "How are you doing?"
15:21 But as far as intentional act that's not always so.
15:24 It occurred to me that maybe this is something
15:26 that churches should start little committees
15:30 where you assign a person
15:32 to you be their comforter for the year.
15:36 Will you know 'cause that's something
15:38 that we sometimes think,
15:39 "Oh, well, you know, they're well loved at church,
15:42 there is probably plenty of people
15:44 checking in on them sending cards or whatever."
15:46 And because there are so many,
15:48 I mean, does that sound stupid.
15:50 No, Shelley, I am like grinning from ear to ear
15:52 because this is what I do on Sabbath.
15:56 I visit churches and I help them develop
15:59 a grief ministry's team.
16:01 I help them become skilful comforters.
16:04 I let them know that it is not the pastor's job
16:08 to carry the attention that the bereaved need
16:12 for the duration they need it.
16:14 The pastor's job as the first responder,
16:16 but then he needs to pass it on to the next team
16:21 that's going to be the long term caregivers
16:23 for this bereaved family this,
16:27 you know, whether it's the cancer,
16:29 whether it's losses through,
16:30 through whatever we've talked about already
16:32 that this grief ministry team
16:35 then knows how to assign who's going to do what,
16:39 so no one gets lost through the cracks.
16:42 And so yes, this I'm just going, yay,
16:45 this is why I'm here.
16:47 This is what God has called me to do to,
16:50 to raise up renowned skilful comforters
16:54 because that's the mission of Isaiah 61.
16:58 "To heal the broken hearted
16:59 and comfort those who mourn in all of Zion."
17:03 Well, all of Zion is all of the world, God's family.
17:06 And we're not good at this.
17:09 We have not followed Jesus' mission in this
17:15 and he came for this purpose
17:17 and we do everything else,
17:20 and we've omitted this.
17:21 And I think primarily
17:23 because it's associated with pain.
17:25 And we're uncomfortable with pain.
17:27 And when pain comes our way,
17:30 it's fight or flight and then to,
17:33 then to say, I'm going to willingly choose
17:36 to be in someone else's space of pain.
17:39 That's really unnatural for us,
17:42 but it's not a natural for the kingdom.
17:44 That's what Jesus came to do was to be in our pain.
17:47 You shared an experience that you had with someone
17:52 or I should say lack of experience,
17:54 no it wasn't experience
17:55 when someone saw you coming down
17:58 the hallway at your church after Dawson died
18:03 and they looked up and recognized it was you.
18:06 They knew your situation
18:08 and they were so uncomfortable they turned around
18:12 and walked in the other direction rather than
18:14 stepping over that threshold into your pain and grief.
18:18 How did that make you feel?
18:21 It was disappointing, very disappointing,
18:25 I felt like I had a big banner on me that said,
18:30 "Don't get close, she hurts."
18:34 And I knew intellectually that it was just more than
18:39 that person knew how to handle
18:41 and so I gave grace to that person,
18:45 but I was very aware
18:46 that it could this happen to someone else
18:48 who didn't have a strong faith relationship,
18:51 a good footing in their trust
18:54 that God was with them in their pain,
18:56 to have people isolate them in their pain,
18:58 to leave them alone in their pain would,
19:01 would be just a really easy way
19:03 for them to walk out the back door of the church.
19:07 And, and that
19:08 just is a heartbreaking thought to me.
19:11 And it's one that drives what I do
19:13 and one that brings me such satisfaction
19:15 when I, I visit a church congregation
19:17 and we go through a two and a half hour workshop
19:20 and they began to open up their awareness
19:23 that they've already been given the skills to comfort people,
19:27 and they just didn't know how to organize it,
19:30 and that they...
19:32 In ten minutes by the end of the workshop
19:34 they can draft a comfort care plan
19:38 for a scenario that I give them
19:40 with just the small table of six
19:42 that they're sitting with.
19:44 It is so fantastic to watch and see.
19:47 You know I want to encourage you first at home.
19:50 Karen's book it's is called,
19:54 Comfort for the Day: Living Through the Seasons of Grief,
19:59 and this is a journal,
20:00 actually I'm going to take my copy home
20:03 and I'm going to journal
20:04 because I'm revisiting some pain
20:08 in my sister's death that
20:10 I realize I haven't really worked through
20:14 the grieving process on my sister
20:15 so I'm going to do this.
20:18 Thank you so much.
20:19 But I want to encourage you to do something
20:23 and you at home to do something.
20:25 I believe with all my heart
20:29 this could be a tool for evangelism.
20:33 There are people grieving not just in our church,
20:37 but outside our church that if churches would hold
20:42 maybe using some of your material,
20:44 some of you've got videos available and things,
20:48 but if you would hold a grief seminar,
20:52 you can have so many people
20:54 that may not come for a vegetarian meal
20:58 or something like that,
20:59 but there are so many people who need to be comforted,
21:04 who do not even know the Lord,
21:06 that if you're holding a grief seminar
21:09 and you can get people into the church for this seminar,
21:14 if you become skilful at being a comforter,
21:18 you're opening doors to bring people into your church.
21:23 Now you don't want to start
21:24 giving them the 28 fundamental beliefs
21:26 when they come for grief seminar.
21:28 But it is something that I believe.
21:31 I hope that your ministry will take off in that direction
21:36 to raise up this as an evangelistic tool
21:40 in every church.
21:41 Well, and we were talking about
21:42 if we're using evangelism is just finding people
21:46 that are broken hearted and letting God heal them.
21:49 You know that's what he came for.
21:51 And one of the best ways to become the skilful comforter
21:54 even if that doesn't ever happen at your church
21:57 is to learn how to be a comfort listener.
22:01 And we listen in conversation
22:05 and we listen to comfort.
22:07 And conversational listening means that I hear what you say
22:10 and then I comment on that,
22:12 and then we talk back and forth,
22:13 and it can go off this tangent or that tangent,
22:16 and we come to know each other really well
22:17 and that's beautiful.
22:19 When it comes to comfort to listening,
22:23 it is never about us
22:26 and it is always about them.
22:29 And so we need to learn to listen in a way
22:32 that does not want us to tell our own story.
22:37 A lot of us are guilty of that.
22:39 It is an easy thing to do
22:41 and we have a, have a belief that,
22:43 well, if I tell you my story
22:44 then you'll know I can identify you.
22:45 Yes.
22:47 That identify with you.
22:48 Well, the reality of it is when you're in bereavement,
22:51 your story is not going to change
22:54 my broken pain filled heart.
22:58 Wow.
22:59 That would hurt because I know that
23:02 there's times that I have been guilty of that thinking that,
23:05 if you listen long enough,
23:06 when you share a story
23:08 that they feel like you're identifying with them
23:11 but your point is well taken.
23:13 Okay, so comfort listening then is about
23:16 listening with our heart and our eyes.
23:20 All we want to do is hear their story.
23:25 We have no comparison between our story and their story.
23:29 We're not thinking about judging the value.
23:31 "Oh, you've had such a worse loss than I have" or maybe,
23:34 "I've had such a worse loss than you have."
23:36 So there's no value, there's no judgment on that.
23:39 There is just simply listening to their story.
23:46 And when we listen just to hear their story,
23:53 it's because they need to tell it.
23:56 And they may need to tell it over and over and over again,
24:01 as an example just to prepare people
24:03 if you're going to step into someone's pain
24:05 very early on in the loss.
24:07 They may need to retell the event of the death,
24:11 the accident.
24:12 I sat by my son's bedside
24:15 and that was what was on my mind
24:18 were his last moments of his life.
24:20 And what was occurring around that death moment,
24:23 I needed to tell that over and over again
24:27 until I could move on to the next part
24:29 of what I needed to tell.
24:31 And so if we're going to be skilled comforters,
24:33 renowned comforters, we simply need to listen.
24:37 We don't need to fix it for them.
24:39 We don't need to give them a solution.
24:41 We can just acknowledge.
24:44 This is really hard, isn't it, Shelley?
24:47 That's all.
24:49 Or could you tell me more about such and such a thing.
24:53 We might want to ask a question
24:54 so they could continue their talking,
24:57 but do we need to talk about ourselves?
24:59 No, not ever.
25:02 Let me ask you this question.
25:04 At what point should you be concerned
25:07 if someone is not moving on in the grieving process.
25:13 I'm listening to what you're saying about
25:16 and I'm thinking of someone
25:18 specifically who is in
25:22 a constant mode of needing comfort,
25:25 it is constant to the point
25:28 that after 12 years
25:29 I often will say as they are doing this.
25:34 I'll bring up what some other people have gone through,
25:37 to let this individual know you're not alone but it's,
25:43 it's an unhealthy type of thing.
25:45 At what point do you become concerned
25:48 and what do you do when someone is not,
25:52 you know, six years down the road,
25:53 nine years down the road,
25:55 if they're not really getting beyond
25:58 and they've fallen into the poor pitiful pearl,
26:01 you know and what do you do then?
26:04 I might ask them, "Are you ready to let go off the pain.
26:10 Do you still need to be identified
26:12 by the loss in your life
26:14 or would you like to be identified by the healing."
26:18 Those are two questions that I usually would ask somebody.
26:21 And if they need to think about that and if they say,
26:25 "I don't know
26:27 or I'm so accustomed to what I've experienced that,
26:31 I didn't know there was another way to live."
26:33 And you just gently offer that
26:36 they might want to consider that there is a better way.
26:40 Grief work.
26:41 Grief work would be it.
26:43 And in this case after 12 years
26:44 they probably need to see a grief coach,
26:46 a therapist, a counselor
26:48 and get that professional help to do that, yeah.
26:53 Karen, I know that we could continue on for many,
26:57 many more programs but this is,
26:59 since this is your last opportunity
27:01 to be with us this season,
27:03 is there a particular comment you wanted to close with?
27:06 Well, there's this quote that comes from Stephen Livine,
27:09 and he says,
27:10 "When fear touches someone's pain it becomes pity.
27:17 When your love touches someone's pain,
27:20 it becomes compassion."
27:23 So I think the thing we need to ask ourselves
27:26 as we're considering becoming skilful comforters,
27:29 are we doing this because
27:31 we're drawn by God's love to be in someone else's pain.
27:36 And that it's not about ourselves in any way,
27:39 it's there for them so that they can know that
27:41 the compassion has come towards them.
27:43 I cannot think of a better way
27:45 to end this four part series on grieving
27:49 and I do want to thank you so much Karen Nicola,
27:53 author, grief, coach, educator,
27:56 just for being with us.
27:58 And for those of you at home, this series will be available.
28:02 You can order the series through the call center.
28:06 If you know somebody that needs to hear that
28:08 or perhaps you want to use this in your church.
28:13 Don't forget,
28:18 You can get in touch with Karen
28:19 and ask her to come speak at your church
28:22 or to get her materials.
28:24 Thank you for joining us.


Revised 2016-11-17