Pastoral Care for the Whole Family
Pastoral Help sometimes does not touch upon the needs of every family member or various feelings that identify the family as a whole. It is important to meet the needs of the patient’s family while the patient approaches death.
One of the first steps a pastoral caregiver can do is normalize any feelings within the family. Some family members may be experiencing secondary losses. They may feel angry at the dying person. It is important to let them know that this does not make them bad or that this does not mean they do not love their family. Instead, such emotions should be faced and dealt with in order to prevent guilt and other ambiguous feelings when death does occur for their family member. There should also be care in preparing the family for death. The family should be prepared and taught what anticipatory grief is and how they may feel when the death does actually occur.
Second, it is imperative that the pastoral provider ensure that all family members are recognized in their grief. Too many times, other people and groups that are affected by a death are ignored and left disenfranchised in their grief.
Third, the family needs to have a healthy balance between denial and acceptance. The pastoral counselor must help certain family members who may experience denial and begin to slowly guide them to acceptance.
Fourth, a pastoral caregiver needs to guide the family into open dialogue with each other. Better communicating families experience better resilience after a loss than closed and quiet families. This open communication should also include children. Children should be told the truth but in accordance with their maturity and understanding of death.
Fifth, the family may need help learning and preparing to say good bye. Throughout the process of death, the family may be experiencing anticipatory grief. Through this, thoughts of the final good bye are already forming in their minds. As a counselor, one can help them better articulate how to express those feelings when the moment of death comes.
Finally, in some cases, the pastoral caregiver also assists with the after death rituals. It is important to ensure that the whole family has a chance to say farewell and commemorate the death of a loved one at the funeral. It is important to encourage the attendance of children.
If you are interested in Pastoral Care for families facing death, please review the program.
(Information for this article is from “Helping Grieving People-When Tears Are Not Enough” by J. Shep Jeffreys)
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C
Judaism and Pastoral Thanatology
As a Pastoral Counselor and Thanatologist, it is important to have a broad understanding of all religious ideals and faiths. This enables the counselor to pastorally care for the suffering and soon to die in a compassionate way that accommodates the individual. Christians will not always deal with Christians, so it is important to broaden one’s theological knowledge into all faiths. We will briefly review some of the primary concepts of Judaism and death to sharpen one’s knowledge in inter-faith dialogue and practice.
Judaism as a non-creedal religion has various interpretations on the afterlife, but the general consensus is affirmation of the next world. Heaven and Hell again or not clearly defined but within the Jewish circle, most contend that it is a reunification with God and a sharing of happiness with family. Salvation is based upon a good life on earth that is open to all people. One does not need to share in the Jewish religion to be saved, but must adhere to a good and moral life to obtain salvation. Upon death all are judged and eventually share in the resurrection. Resurrection is believed to be physical if a Traditional Jew, while the resurrection is believed to be only spiritual if one is a Reformed Jew. These slight differences and no dogmatic declarations leave one with a small variety of differences, however, if counseling a dying Jew, one can rest assured if the Jew is religious, he or she shares in a belief of God and the afterlife.
In regards to burial, the traditional Jew is placed in a simple wooden box casket and clothed in plain white shrouds. These shrouds are placed upon the deceased after the cleansing prayers. The funeral itself is divided into two parts. The first is held at the synagogue or funeral home and the second is held at the gravesite. Mourning, freedom of emotion and other public expressions are encouraged here as the relatives and friends share in their grief.
As a pastoral counselor this information is important, but most important to the science of Thanatology is the care of the dying. In Judaism, care for the dying is extremely important. The person who is dying must be constantly attended to and never left alone. All of their wishes, even the most minor thirst, must be answered. Close members of the family consider these to blessed tasks. Such close care allows the family to express their love but also to give the dying a sense of peace and love. Once the person has expired, the son or nearest relative closes the eyes and mouth of the parent are closed. The body then undergoes a ritualistic series of cleansing and purification.
It is important if witnessing the death of a devout Jew to understand these rituals. While you may not partake individually in these functions, having a solid understanding of them may come to be of service to the family. It is also important for the dying themselves to feel understood. Potentially sharing scripture and God’s love can be of great service to a dying Jew. Remember, if a Theist, there is much Christians and Jews share in regards to the God of Abraham. Share these precious mutual stories and beliefs of faith that bind Christians and Jews alike. In the end, that is what will allow you as a Pastoral Counselor to succeed in inter-faith dialogue.