What do you say at the grave of a stillborn baby? A person who was moving in the womb and then wasn't. A person who was part of a story that parents were writing and dreaming and decorating for, and then that story stopped. I'm not sure what you should say. But I thought it might be helpful to tell you what I said once.
If you've sat with a family in an emergency room, you've faced hard questions. And you've struggled to figure out the way to navigate hope and despair. It doesn't matter if you are a chaplain or a pastor or a friend that showed up in a hard time. You get questions and you have to answer. Sometimes, it sounds like this.
Because I see a lot of death as a hospital chaplain, it makes sense for me to look for ways to help people think about how to make decisions about medical and other interventions near the end of life. How to understand what is going on in the hospital and in the body. How to work within a framework to make decisions. This is a review of books I've been reading.
“What do we do?” The dad was holding the baby. About 30 weeks in the womb, the first 28 of those growing, moving. The last two motionless. Now, this couple was thinking about the services that would honor their child who had no list of accomplishment to eulogize. Here's what I told them.
How can I get better at pastoral care? I can pay attention to my own practice, my own interactions with husbands and wives, parents and children, moments of excruciating difficulty. In each of those moments (or immediately after) I can ask myself, "What am I learning that will help me with the next one of those moments. What questions can I ask myself and others? What can I learn about attending to bits of information and infusing them back into the care all of us provide?"
I think they were nine and twelve. But I’m terrible with figuring out the ages of kids, and I’ve decided that asking isn’t helpful. Instead, I start listening and start talking and calibrate my vocabulary and concepts to the responses I’m getting. Thirty feet away, through an open door, a public hallway, and a closed … Continue reading A conversation with kids about death.
Adriel Booker wrote this for pastors who want to care for parents after miscarriage. What parents need from pastors after a miscarriage 1. Make time for grieving parents as early as possible. 2. Acknowledge the significance of their baby’s life. 3. Attend to both the mother and the father. 4. Encourage them to be honest … Continue reading How spiritual leaders can help in time of miscarriage (link)
Here are the words I use every time I begin a funeral service. We don’t want to be here. Just so that’s clear. We’re here because when God made us, he built us to respect lives, and to acknowledge that when an earthly life ends, something significant changes. There is something that is right about … Continue reading How to start a funeral service
I often hear people talking about God teaching them this lesson or that. Though we have many stories about the ways that Jesus was teaching people, most of them don't fit in our sense of "teaching people a lesson." This video from a few of my friends will help you understand what I mean. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdYWGRfKW9w