Open to Hope recently spoke with Chuck Overton, a Spiritual Director at Caris Healthcare in Knoxville, Tennessee. As a chaplain, Overton has worked closely with grieving families as they learn to navigate life after losing a loved one. One of the biggest hurdles, Overton explains, is “their experience with feeling abandoned.” This can include by God, their spiritual community and of course the loved one who passed.

It’s common to feel isolated from even a well-established spiritual community, whether it’s by their pastor or their close “church friends”—and this abandonment could have threads of truth or not. It’s common for a spiritual community to come together when a member loses a loved one, but it can seem like that support fades away (after all, time heals all wounds, right?). “My first approach is just really get to know them,” Overton says. Sometimes a simple, “Tell me about yourself” can be all it takes to show someone they’re not alone.

A Journey Together

Even though Overton approaches people without bringing up spiritual connections himself, he says that’s usually where the conversations go and he’s not the one leading them there. Plus, Overton says one of the best things he (or anyone) can do is just to let people know he’s available. Listening, especially active listening, is priceless. He recalls many instances when he was told someone didn’t like their pastor because they gave canned responses—however, many pastors don’t deal with death on a very regular basis (surprisingly).

Now, as a hospice chaplain and bereavement specialist, that’s all Overton does. “I deal with death every day,” he says. This has allowed him to listen on “a different level,” and that might be just what grieving families need. He recommends reaching out to a spiritual director during these tough times, starting with the chaplain at the hospice (if applicable). Otherwise, ask around for word of mouth recommendations. Most chaplains are available to anybody in the community—and offer an approach that might be more suited to bereavement counseling.



Neil Chethik

Neil Chethik is an author, speaker and expert specializing in men's lives and family issues. He is the author of two acclaimed books: VoiceMale: What Husbands Really Think About Their Marriages, Their Wives, Sex, Housework and Commitment (Simon & Schuster 2006), and FatherLoss: How Sons of All Ages Come To Terms With the Deaths of Their Dads (Hyperion 2001). Previously, Neil was a staff reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat and San Jose Mercury News, and writer of VoiceMale, the first syndicated column on men's personal lives. His writings have appeared in hundreds of print and web publications. He is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Ky., where he lives with his wife, Kelly Flood, and son, Evan. Reach Neil at: 121 Arcadia Park Lexington Ky. 40503 859-361-1659 Neil appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Men and Loss.” To hear Neil being interviewed on this show, click on the following link:

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