Currently serving as an associate pastor at a Lutheran church in Hemet, California, Reverend Ron Ritter connected with Dr. Gloria Horsley at the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference to discuss his tips on handling grief. His first major loss was that of his brother when Ritter was only a child. Years later, after a very successful military career, he lost his son in a car accident. Throughout these losses and other hurdles in life, Reverend Ritter has always leaned heavily on his faith and family.
He was a US Navy chaplain for several years, and says he got into the field because he was always sensitive to death and bereavement since losing his hero, his brother, at such a young age. It was a natural fit for him after he joined the military. Even as a Christian himself, Reverend Ritter says he adamantly tries to give advice that’s helpful to anyone.
Good Intentions Gone Awry
Many times, the Reverend says he sees well intentioned people who aren’t aware of how to talk to those grieving trying to talk about faith with those who are bereaved. However, the bereaved are focused on love. The misinformed keep answering with faith answers, which leads to an immediate disconnect. The bereaved want to talk about their loved ones—not get advice or opinions.
“People are not interested in what you have to say,” he says. People want to get asked questions, and they want opportunities to share stories about their loved one. Active listening, being present, and letting the bereaved lead the conversation isn’t just the best approach, but it’s often the easiest approach if you want to support somebody in grief. However, it takes discipline of the mind, especially for those in religious communities.