When the Pastor Grieves

When the Pastor Grieves

As I write this Sabbath afternoon I am in tears in deep grief - one of those days. I recently lost my Dad after a short illness this year

Pastor Pardon Chenjerai (North England Conference: Huddersfield, Fartown & Leeds Beeston District)

Your pastor is human too! Pastors go through a lot and still have to give a lot. They cry and grieve too. Grieving can't be wished away just like one of your bad days or can it be quickly forgotten just like a friendly disappointing football match loss. As for a friendly football match, a team can quickly bounce back by correcting the wrongs and winning the next game. Grieving can be painful and it can't be fixed or made to go away so easily.

As I write this Sabbath afternoon I am in tears in deep grief – one of those days. I recently lost my Dad after a short illness this year. He was only 68; arguably young and could have lived another 20 or so years. As I was growing up he taught me many life skills and helped me to develop a character that has carried me to this day.

A few months ago when he called me sharing his health challenges, I did not know that he was left with just a few months to live. I was never prepared and I still find it difficult to cope. As a preacher who has been on the pulpit and many places preaching for years, I thought I really understood loss, until now. I have conducted funerals and burials for a number of years now, but death never affected me this badly as I try to cope with my Dad's loss.

I was home here in England when I received the dreadful phone call from my brother-in-law. 

I didn't appear visibly shocked or feel numb.  I was of course anticipating his recovery but also the worst as his health was evidently deteriorating. Overall I was still in disbelief when the news was broken to me.

According to a general culture in my country of birth – Zimbabwe, being the eldest son meant I had to fly out to Zimbabwe to bury my Dad, Covid or no Covid fears.

I did everything possible before flying out to ensure that the funeral was organised before I even arrived. My church family here in Huddersfield, Fartown and Leeds Beeston where I am pastoring, my Conference – North England Conference, British Union Conference church family at large, family and friends  across the world played a big role in supporting me and my family in every possible way. I am forever grateful to them and to God. One needs their church family when they lose a loved one. That helped me a lot.

As I flew out from England to Zimbabwe I was overwhelmed with sadness, with lots of crying, tiredness and exhaustion. As a pastor and being the eldest son everyone was expecting me to arrive in Zimbabwe with strength to comfort everyone and assure everyone that everything was going to be alright. But I am only human! I am just a mortal man. I just lost a parent myself. I am weak.

I did not restrict myself from crying while on the plane. I allowed myself to cry much so that by the time I reach my destination I would have emptied my emotions enough to strengthen my family and friends who look up to me.

By the time I landed in Harare I still had enough strength to organise funeral things and go through the funeral motions without being too emotional in front of everyone. 

The funeral service and burial were well supported and was so powerful and beautiful despite the cloud of sadness hanging above us. The support I received and the good planning of the funeral brought a lot of comfort to me. But I did not grieve properly up to this time. Grieving started again when I returned home to England.

One can carry on distracting themselves from grieving as much and try to carry on but sometimes the sadness of the loss is just a lot to take.

Let me say that when you are grieving in the first few days and weeks you may go through many different feelings and emotions, and that is normal. There's no right or wrong way to feel and react.

As I continue to grieve even today, I can say that some days I am happy and positive but some days are really hard. 

When I think of how I shared with my Dad our life experiences and our future plans etc. I feel sad. Now as I try to carry on with life it is normal to have intrusive memories of all sorts. Those memories can trigger memories of your loved one.

I believe that the grief and pain will lessen and there will come a time when myself and others in bereavement can adjust and cope without the person who has died. 

God is still our present helper in times of trouble.

Here are some verses and thoughts to consider as we go through grieving.

Take your time to grieve.

Grieving needs its time.

John 16:22, "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." 

Don't worry about things you cannot change.

Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God."

Don't compare your grief with others.

We grieve differently.

2 Corinthians 10:12, "Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding."

Seek the right kind of social support.

We need each other.

Galatians 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."

You are not alone.

God has not left you.

Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."

God is our assurance.

Psalm 27: 5, "For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock."

Revelation 21:4, "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

In spite of the pastor's theological achievements, Spirit-led ministry and powerful eloquent preaching etc., the pastor grieves also!

Stay in the comfort of the Lord.

Pastor Pardon Chenjerai (North England Conference: Huddersfield, Fartown & Leeds Beeston District)