Jeff Borders joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 19 and has had many opportunities to serve in leadership roles including Ward Mission, Young Men’s, Elders Quorum and in the Bishopric. Jeff works as the Respiratory Therapy Manager at a rural hospital near his home, and as the Safety Lieutenant for a local volunteer fire station. Jeff writes regularly for This Week in Mormons and Spokane Faith and Values. He has contributed articles to Leading Saints, published with the Spokesman Review and LDS Living.
It was one of the hardest nights of my life as a parent. I sat, cradling my 11-year old son in my arms, as he mourned the loss of his best friend. No, he hadn’t passed away but would be moving far away to Japan with his family. The mourning he experienced, although not mourning for the deceased, was mourning nonetheless.
His tears broke my heart. As a father, I just wanted to be able to fix the problem. But that was the problem, I couldn’t fix it. He was mourning, and all I could do was mourn with him.
Cultivating the Ability to Mourn With Others
This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in the situation of mourning with others. In my job at the hospital I work for, I’m often exposed to traumatic experiences as I literally deal with life and death situations. As part of my day job, I’ve been trained in critical incident stress debriefing and psychological first aid to help both myself and my peers navigate these difficult situations.
Beyond when I’m the one involved in the critical incident, having to do the debriefing can be just as mentally and emotionally demanding, because I am present with my colleagues and friends as they mourn, doing my best to comfort them. One of the skills I’ve had to develop and one that Christ has asked us to cultivate is the ability to mourn with those that mourn.
At some point in time, all of those who have been called as ministers will be asked to comfort those who need comfort or mourn with those who are mourning. Each of us made this covenant at baptism, promising that we would bear one another’s burdens.
Discovering How the Savior Ministered in These Situations
To better help me cultivate these skills, I’ve studied the Savior’s interactions and the stories in the scriptures, to come up with some ideas to better develop the ability to minister and mourn.
- Be Present – There is no better example of this then the story of Job. When Job had lost everything, his friends came to him to mourn with and comfort him. Not only did they mourn and comfort him, but they spent time with him. For seven days and nights, when his grief was great, they were just present with him. When people are hurting, often times the best thing we can do is just to be present with them.
- The Sound of Silence – While the person may want to talk about what has occurred, they also may want to be quiet. There is a huge benefit to moments of silence. Silence also allows us to access the promptings of the still small voice so we know when the time is right to speak, and then when it is time to speak, that we are sure to ask the right questions.
- Asking the Right Questions – It’s okay to ask the person mourning how they are feeling. Don’t shy away from feelings. If the person doesn’t want to talk it about it, they won’t. If they do want to talk about it, they will. This goes back to the power of silence. Ask the question and then give some silent time. Allow the person to think and ponder first. Then when and if they do speak, we quietly listen. If they don’t speak, that’s okay too. Going back to number 1, we are present with them in the time of mourning. Always make sure to engage in active listening.
- Prayer – This really could be number one on the list, but starting off with a prayer for yourself before meeting with anyone will help bring you closer to the spirit so that you can receive promptings as to how to minister to those who are mourning.
- Keep Yourself Open Enough to Feel the Pain of Others – While you will probably never understand what a person may be going through, you can try to open yourself up enough to feel the emotions of another, thus allowing yourself greater empathy for them. Remember, Christ knew He would call Lazarus from the tomb, yet He still wept with Mary and Martha.
- Things to Avoid Saying – Things Like, “You need to have more faith.” We can be perfectly faithful in life and still have trials.
- Charity Never Fails – Ultimately Christ displayed how we should treat those who are suffering and in need through His numerous examples in the scriptures. We are called upon to express the pure love of Christ in our daily interactions, and while none of us will ever be experts in the field of mourning with those who mourn, we can have confidence that we are doing what the Savior has asked us to do.
By developing and cultivating these skills, we can all become better ministers in the kingdom and heed the call of Christ to heal, mend, lift, mourn with, and comfort our brothers and sisters around the world.