I was having breakfast and lunch (we talked so long, breakfast turned into lunch) with a fellow Pastor’s widow/colleague and she said “did you notice how we go from wearing masks to wearing smiles”? I had to think about that for a minute. Yes!
Pastors’ Wives often wear masks, though we don’t like to admit it or don’t even realize it. We do not wear them to be “fake” but to protect our congregants and ourselves.
The culture of being a Pastor’s Wife creates the temptation to wear a mask. Ministry creates such stress for both the Pastor and his wife, that the wives are often not totally satisfied with their lives. They desire to create a positive impression and thus neglect their true life. We are there to serve: to serve our husbands in whatever he needs in ministry and to serve the congregation when they need us. In order to assist them fully, we must be in a positive position to do so. They don’t come to us to hear about our problems and issues – nor do I think many of them even care. They come to us for a spiritual resolution to their issues. So, no matter what goes on in our lives, we push it to the back and operate on “100”! We don’t ever want to respond to a congregant in a less than positive manner. Additionally, what we do reflects on our husbands.
But think about this, preserving your “image” WILL cause you to neglect your own spiritual reality. Philippians 2:12-13 tells us “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”. You must off load your own personal sins, struggles and inner pain. That’s called “working it out”. When you shed the mask, you feel freer.
I believe people have good intentions when they try to comfort us. But there are many things that people say that just don’t help, such as: “he’s watching over you”, “he’s cheering you on”, “he’ll always be right beside you”, “don’t cry”, “God needed an angel”, “you have to be strong”, “get out, it will help you”, etc. Besides being scripturally unsound, those types of comments make it worse for the grieving person. In order to successfully pass through the grief journey, there are several stages we have to go through and there is no “normal” timetable for getting through the process.
What are better responses for the person attempting to comfort someone grieving?
- JUST BE THERE. Your presence means more than anything! You do not have to know what to say. You can even say “I don’t know how you’re feeling or what to say but I’m here to listen”.
- Help the person whenever you can. Many times, the grieving person goes through many situations they may not have encountered before. If they ask for finances, $20 is a big help and little becomes much when placed in the Master’s hands. They may be at a point when they can’t pray for themselves. Don’t just say “praying” but pray WITH them. Check on them often to find out if they’re ok. If they don’t answer or say they don’t feel like talking, try again later. Just don’t forget them!
So, those who are grieving get so many uncomfortable responses to them, the only thing to do is smile! Being in a fragile state, they try to be careful not to respond negatively – so they smile. That smile does NOT mean “I’m fine”. It means “I’m just smiling”.
So, we go from wearing masks to wearing smiles. I have had many inappropriate or hurtful responses to my grief. My response? I smile.
It may not be the time or the place to educate others on what’s appropriate or hurtful. Perhaps a note to the person later may help so they know how to respond in the future.
I continue on with my “new” life without the love of my life and as Kirk Franklin says “I smile”!
Denyse H. Turner, L.H.D, M.P.H., M.A., ACC
First Lady who is out to help others win!
I am picking up ministry where my husband left off!
Public Speaker/Author/Trainer/Counselor/Faith-Based Travel Educator
First Lady and Chief Connector at Dr. Gregory C. Turner, Late Pastor of Christ Temple Baptist Church