Each year the COMISS Network promotes Spiritual Care Week. It is an occasion to recognize the different disciplines who offer spiritual care to persons. The theme for 2018 is Hospitality: Cultivating Time. Throughout this week you will hear from CBF endorsed chaplains and pastoral counselors as they focus on this theme. Below is Part 4. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.
By Genene Nisbet
Twenty-two years ago I entered into a ministry I never envisioned. I joined the staff of a family owned and operated funeral home; providing pastoral care as a bereavement counselor.
The funeral home owners believe in being companion to families through their loss experience. This allows me to develop a program that is multi-dimensional and addresses the needs of bereaved persons. It is a perfect fit.
In my childhood home, our doors were always open. My mother had a gift of hospitality. She loved people and welcomed them in just as they were. I never knew if people were staying for dinner or staying the night. She was a perfect example of warmth and caring compassion.
In my early years of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), I trained at a trauma center. I thought I had to be in the thick of trauma work to “really be ministering,” but I soon realized that it was in the small things and the slow journey of grief I am best suited. Like my mother, I have a desire to know people’s stories. This requires time and patience, as the path of rebuilding one’s life after a loss is slow and tedious.
I often reflect on my classroom experience with Dr. Wayne Oates, who talked about ministering in the “mundane.” He explained that ministry happens when sitting and having coffee with another person. Ministry is in the everyday-ness of life; sometimes in the minutia of life. This is where I minister. I meet bereaved persons and families following the death of a loved one. As I sit with them, I learn the story of their loved one’s life and begin to understand the pain of their loss.
Cultivating time with those to whom I minister is a blessing. Grief is not processed in stages or a straight line. It’s messy.
Bereaved persons swirl around, are emotionally thrown up and down and encounter obstacles when they least expect it. In a results-oriented society, bereaved persons are often rushed or shamed through their grief process. It is a gift to be able to provide a sacred space for those who mourn, to sit and process how their world has changed. Only through understanding what has changed can they create a vision of how to meaningfully move forward in their lives.
I thank God for the opportunity to sit with families in their loss experience. In cultivating time with those I serve, I am blessed to see how God transforms people’s pain. In witnessing this, I am touched at my deepest level and welcomed into the presence of God.
Genene Nisbet is a CBF endorsed chaplain serving as a bereavement chaplain for Owen Aftercare Services in Lousiville, Ky.