The Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) conference brings together Chuck Overton and Neil Chethik from Open to Hope. Overton is one of the spiritual directors at a care center in Tennessee. As a chaplain, he finds that the biggest concern for those on a spiritual journey going through a loss is feeling abandoned by God. Sometimes they feel abandoned by their spiritual community. They feel isolated from the pastor, members of their church, and even their friends and family.
The long-term continued support can fade away after a short amount of time. That’s when difficulty really occurs. This is interpreted as abandonment by God via the people who should be there for them. When talking with the bereaved for the first time, Overton approaches them by getting to know them. Knowing their life history and who they are as well as their spiritual connection is critical. That gives him a good idea of where they are.
Through conversation, many will talk about their spiritual connections rather than their personal connections. They might say, “I have family, but they’re not around.” This tells Overton a lot about their abandonment and isolation feelings. The bereaved might get clichéd support. He lets everyone know that he’s available, which is a surprise to them. Some don’t know that there are specialists who deal with grief.
There are certainly clergymen who don’t specialize in grief, and this can feel like a dead end. It might be important to identify a member of a church who has special training with the bereaved. Overton dealt with death once per month, at the most, as a regular chaplain. As a hospice chaplain and bereavement worker, he deals with end of life issues and death every single day, which lets him listen on a different level.