How to Help Your Husband After a Bereavement Call
We all know that death is a part of life.
And as Christians, we know that death in this life isn’t the end.
But despite that knowledge, dealing with death is hard.
It’s hard for the grieving family, and it’s hard for the pastor that is supporting them.
And in turn, it’s hard for the wife and family of the pastor that is supporting the grieving family.
Because grief is so difficult.
It isn’t contained to just the people directly affected by the death. It seeps over into everyone around them. And because that makes people uncomfortable, people often avoid people who are grieving. It’s messy and difficult and they just don’t want to be involved in it. Selfish as it may sound, that’s the way it is for a lot of people.
But pastors don’t really have that option.
Part of their job is to be with families who are grieving.
Every church my husband has every worked as senior pastor at has had “perform funerals and bereavement calls for members and families” as part of the job description. And while it’s completely Biblical, it’s still not easy.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” – Romans 12:15
Since pastors are people too, it is still difficult to sit with people as they grieve. It is heartbreaking to talk to grieving parents, children, siblings, friends, grandparents about burying their loved ones. But your husband will do it over and over again throughout his career.
So what can you do to help make bereavement calls easier for him?
Actually a lot.
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Here are five ways to help your husband after a bereavement call.
1. Have your home settled
When my husband walks in the door whether he’s been gone an hour or a full workday, my kids run to him like he’s returned from a year-long deployment overseas. And while that is totally fine most of the time, when he walks in from a bereavement call, having a pack of excited children pounce on him isn’t great.
So while your husband is with the grieving family, get your kids settled. Tell them to be calm and kind. Be honest with them about where their dad is and talk through how they think he wants to be treated.
Kids are perceptive and intelligent.
Related Post: 7 Books to Foster Ingenuity in Kids
A person from the church that your kids may or may not know has died and their dad is going to go and sit with them, counsel them, plan a funeral with them, preach the funeral for them, and just generally support them in their time of grief. Help your kids to see how emotionally draining that is and lead them to some activities and behaviors that will make your husband happy.
It’s also nice to do a quick tidying of your home. Walking into a home that is in pretty good order and smells nice is a good feeling. Even if your husband never seems to notice when the house is clean, tidy up anyways.
Burn a candle that he likes.
My husband is forever picking candles that smell like the woods.
Just straight up outside in a soy wax base. Obviously that’s not my favorite smell, but every time I burn that Fireside candle he tells me that “the house smells great.”
And you know how true this is. When you walk into your home and it’s calm, clean, and good smelling, don’t you feel the burdens of the day sort of lift off your shoulders? And when you walk into your home and it smells like old bananas, there are toys cluttering the whole place, and your kids are running wild, don’t you feel tense?
Your husband feels the same way even if he never expresses it.
2. Watch a family movie
For my family, watching a movie together while eating popcorn is the pinnacle of all things good.
Granted, my husband is a movie buff and my kids are young, so this may not be a great activity for you. But there’s something about being able to sit down with the people that you love and turn your brain off for a little bit that is so refreshing.
And when you add popcorn to the mix, it’s quite close to perfect.
3. Make his favorite food
Comfort food is called comfort food for a reason. As humans, most people find at least some comfort in food.
You know the foods that your husband loves. Try to have those ready for him when he gets home or at least ready for the next meal.
For my husband, chicken wings made in our air fryer and covered in Frank’s Wing sauce is the bee’s knees. No one else in our family likes chicken wings at all, but I know that it makes my husband happy. If I don’t have time/supplies to make chicken wings, I make popcorn. We always have the ingredients to make popcorn in coconut oil on the stove because that is my husband’s fav.
Spending time with a family that’s grieving is draining and sad. Making some hot wings or popcorn to bring him a little comfort and happiness is a pretty easy thing for me to do.
4. Be available or give space
This one is especially tough for me because I am a talker. When I am upset, I want to sit down and say every word that runs through my head until I work out a solution.
My husband does not.
So I do my best to be available and give space when he gets home from a bereavement call.
Now if that sounds like a total contradiction, I understand. Here’s what I mean.
I go to him and ask if he wants to talk. If he says no (which he usually does), I tell him where he can find me.
And then I go and do something that can easily be interrupted or set aside. I make myself busy, but not so involved that I can’t stop. I’ll go and fold laundry, clean a room, do dishes, read a book, or some other task that can easily be stopped in the middle if he decides he wants to talk or just be with me.
And usually, he does. He’ll go to our room and change clothes, play a game on his phone, and just decompress and then come find me. Now what we talk about is a whole other skill, which is what makes the next point so important.
5. Listen if he talks
Sometimes when my husband gets back from a particularly difficult bereavement visit, he comes in the house looking a little shell shocked. It’s like he hasn’t really had time to process all that has happened, and his brain is just on overload.
So I do my best to not ask any questions about what happened. It’s a terrible feeling to walk in the door from doing an incredibly draining thing and then be barraged with questions.
I literally try to ask him zero questions.
For example, normally I would ask, “Do you want a Dr. Pepper and some crushed ice?” Instead, I just make a Dr. Peper and some crushed ice and bring it to him. If he doesn’t drink it, we wasted $.50. That’s okay. Giving my husband a mental break is worth $.50.
And if he wants to talk, I do my best to just listen.
This is tough for me.
I want to ask all these questions and guide our conversations.
But after a bereavement call, I let him talk in the way that he wants. And sometimes, it is truly baffling what he talks about.
I remember one time he came home after being with a family who’d just found their son’s body. My husband was with them when the coroner came, while the police took their statement, when they told their younger son that his brother was dead, and while they packed up to go stay at a friend’s house. It was absolutely heartbreaking.
When he finally came home, he talked about his favorite summer at church camp.
I was flabbergasted.
But I just listened and talked about my favorite summer at church camp. After a few hours, he shared some details with me about the evening and eventually we worked through the eulogy. But for the moment he needed to talk about church camp. So we did.
In conclusion, bereavement visits are hard, but they’re a part of your husband’s job.
And part of your job as his wife is to support him. There are several ways that you can help him to feel better after a bereavement visit. Settling your home, making his favorite food, watching a movie, being available, giving his space, and listening while he talks are some of the best ways I’ve found to help your husband after a bereavement call.
What are some ways you’ve found to help your husband after a bereavement call? Tell us in the comments!
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