Caring for Tragedy in the Church Community

Tragedy comes to us unannounced. It is a shock in the human experience. The new and unwanted reality has a way of troubling us to the core. Yet hope can emerge if a community is present to care for the troubled. In this episode of Breaking Bread, Ted Witzig Jr. speaks to those in the caring community. There are some things to know about support in times of crisis that will prove helpful to the troubled.

Show notes:

Definition of tragedy: Tragedy is a sudden, shock inducing experience that launches us into a place crisis.

Examples of tragedy: Natural disaster, unexpected loss, robbery, assault, accident

Effects of tragedy: Tragedy undermines safety, security and the sense of control. It has a shocking effect in the human experience. Emotionally, tragedy causes grief, sadness, anxiety, and anger. Spiritually, tragedy can surface troubling questions of “why?”.

Community Role in tragedy: Provide support and care for the troubled both in the short term and long term. To do this well, we must be aware of which phase the crisis is in and attempt to match support to the phase.

  • Phase 1: Troubled individuals need “safety and stability.”
    • Examples of phase 1 support to provide: practical helps, meals, childcare, lodging, reconstruction, prayers.
  • Phase 2: Troubled individuals need to heal through “remembering and mourning.”
    • Examples of phase 2 support to provide:  personal presence, sitting with difficult emotions, listening to the grieving, prayers.
  • Phase 3: Troubled individuals need to find “new purpose and new meaning.”
    • Examples of phase 3 support to provide: encouragement, purpose, reception into new normal, supporting people through disillusionment, prayers.

Tips for the helping community:

  • Pace yourself. Victims of crisis need support now, but also down the road.
  • It’s okay if you don’t know what to do or say. Victims of crisis care less about you having answers and more about your commitment to walk with them.
  • Be patient. Often, helpers make the mistake of wanting to see those in painful places move forward more quickly than they often do.
  • Understand your role and relationship to the victim of tragedy. Provide support consistent with that role.
  • Be slow to evaluate “how the grieving person is doing.”
  • Learn to observe the emotion the hurting person is experiencing and respond to it empathetically.

 

Tragedy gives the believing community the unique opportunity to act as the family of God.  We pray more. We are more thoughtful about what is important in life, and we get to display Christ to the world.


Further Information

Being a Caring Church Webinar [ACCFS]
In this recorded webinar, we consider the mindset needed as well as some skills that can be helpful as we engage as a loving support during times of hurt.