The Grief Support Coordinator for Forest Lawn, Galen Goben, spoke with Dr. Heidi Horsley of the Open to Hope Foundation during the 2015 Association for Death Education and Counseling conference about having faith after a death. Forest Lawn is an organization in California that helps people plan ahead for death, including full funeral, crematorium and cemetery services. He’s also an ordained minister of the Christian Church of the Disciples of Christ and says that one of the best ways to heal after a loss is learning how to “live with the pain.” However, you also have to learn that there is love and hope on the other side of that pain, and that’s where it can get challenging.
Goben often reminds people that they have been in painful situations before and survived, and even thrived. The previous situations may not have been quite this painful, but it’s a good gauge of how healing is possible. However, he points out that faith in the healing process can be a great help to many people, while for others it can “be a stumbling block.” However, for those who find comfort in the idea that their loved one is with God or otherwise lives on, working with a faith-based supporter or support group can be a big help.
Finding Faith after a Loss
No matter what a person’s faith or belief, the idea of being reunited with a loved one again serves as great comfort. “Their idea of heaven” can be the major buoy they hold onto after a loss, says Goben. No matter what a person’s belief system is, Dr. Horsley agrees that those grieving want to know their loved one is safe and at peace.
Particularly with violent deaths, those in grief can find comfort and reassurance in their faith that—now—their loved one is in a safe place. That’s what Goben helps families to focus on during difficult times.