Ten years ago, Steve and Karen Nicola felt impressed to reach out to people going through grief. After losing their son to Leukemia, they personally understood the need for healthy grief training.
The Nicolas, from Auburn, California, traveled up to Auburn Adventist Academy in Washington at the end of September 2021 for a special grief care training seminar for academy students and local church member.
The introductory assembly included the sharing of Nicolas’ story along with a talk about the importance of words.
When a friend is grieving, the first instinct is usually to say, “I’m so sorry.” Students and staff learned it is better to expand your words to include the type of loss or the problem at hand. It is better to acknowledge your friend’s grief directly and say, “I’m so sorry that your dad died.”
Students then learned about the principles of healthy grief. They mixed into groups with some adult members of the Auburn Adventist Academy Church to discuss the value of pain and grief and how each person’s grief is unique. The Nicolas shared that in order to heal from grief, one must grieve. Society teaches us to tough-it-out, but that is actually an unhealthy way of healing. No one can tell a grieving person what they should or shouldn’t feel.
The training continued with stories about the correlation of shame and regret that grieving individuals may experience. Karen Nicola stressed that forgiveness is an important part of the healing process, for both others and for yourself.
The final component of training included techniques for being a good comforter. Grief impacts not only the mind but the physical body, too. In these moments, the most important thing you can do is to “go through it with them” and master the art of listening. Academy students learned the most important thing you can do for a grieving friend is sit with them and listen with an open heart and mind.