Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Addressing the Trials of Grief: An Interview with Pastor Riva Tims

As most you may know, on September 7, 2013, GO Ministries will be presenting our newest stage play "Life Forever Changed." Written in memory of my sister who  passed away suddenly two years ago, this illustrated message addresses the behind the scenes affects of grief. God instructed me to write this play so that it would not only minister to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one but those who are mourning the loss of marriage, relationship, job etc.

I am thankful to Pastor Riva Tims who took the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions about how her family's journey through grief after the death of her former husband Pastor Zachary Tims. Here is what she had to say....

BMackWrites:  Someone said to me the Christmas after my sister died “She was saved..right? She went to Heaven…right? So what are you crying for?” What are some misconceived notions you feel people have about Christians who mourn?
Pastor Riva Tims: The Word of God is filled with scriptures that let us know if we accept Christ we have eternal life with God. John 3:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish , but have eternal life. And 2 Cor 5:8 tells us, We are confident , I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. What a joy for us to know when our body dies we crossover in the spirit to live in total peace.  The joy of eternal life, however, does not erase the desire to see, to hold, to communicate and be with a loved one that has passed.  When a loved one dies prematurely or at the hands of someone else a plethora of emotions become overwhelming regardless if that loved one made it to heaven. In an effort to demonstrate faith, Christians may forgo the necessary grieving process. Many mental health professionals use Kubler-Ross's model of the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Everyone may not go through these exact stages, but everyone must go through a process of mourning traumatic loss including the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, a pet, a friendship etc.  If we do not deal with our losses properly then life events will continually trigger us back into depression, anger and other negative mindsets and emotions.  Months had passed since my divorce was final and I experienced triggers that took me directly to the time I lost my marriage. It was as if no time had elapsed at all.  It wasn't until I was healed that I could deal with certain dates, names and places.  My ex-husband's untimely death caused me to go through the grieving process yet again.  Allowing myself to grieve and mourn has afforded me a spiritual and emotional stability.

BMackWrites:  We teach our kids God will never let hurt, harm or danger come to us. When my sister died, it was difficult to explain to her children and our children why God took her so suddenly. In what ways have you been able to encourage your children while helping them to keep the faith?
Pastor Riva Tims: We don’t understand why God allows certain circumstances to happen in our lives.  Life is like a beautiful intricate tapestry; the back of the tapestry looks jumbled, loose ends, and hardly any connectivity and doesn’t resemble the beautiful front of the completed tapestry.  We must always trust God during difficult times and understand while God doesn't cause or inflict the pain, He may allow the pain.  God sees the finish product of our lives, and the lives of our love ones. When my children loss their dad, I encouraged them to focus on his life and the positive times they shared together.  To remember that their lives were a result of his life and his memory would live forever through them.  I also told them it was okay for them to express all of their feelings and to discuss them at anytime. I was quite honest to let them know life isn't fair but God graces us to go through the difficult valley seasons.

BMackWrites:  Most people don’t know what to say or do in another person’s time of mourning. What are some little things people did for you and your family that mattered the most?
Pastor Riva Tims: Things you may want to refrain from saying are:
Get a hold of yourself; You can't fall apart, Be thankful you have other children; The living must go on; She led a full life; or Don't cry. The most important thing to do is to let a person who has lost a loved one know that you are there for them.  Also, know it is ok to have moments of silence when you are with someone grieving.  Let the person share and talk.  We must listen and let them know that we hear them. When they ask the question why did this happen? Please don't try to give some spiritual explanation as to why it happened.  Be honest, tell them you don't know why but encourage them by prayer, comfort of the Holy Spirit and offer to do daily chores or errands for them. 

BMackWrites:  To this day, we still don’t know what caused my sister’s death. To some degree, it’s hard to find closure when there are so many questions left behind. What advice would you give to people who grieve with the possibility they will never get the answers they feel they need to move on?
Pastor Riva Tims: We know all too well about not having closure when the father of my children passed.  It is extremely difficult to move forward when you don't have an understanding of what happened.  I encouraged my children to begin the process of starting an enrichment center in honor of their father to continue his legacy and help other pastors.  It helped my children to gain closure to move forward with something positive in their father's name.  God will reveal to us all things in glory.  Our lives are but a vapor compared to eternity.  We may not get the understanding in this life, but we can have peace.

BMackWrites:  Mourning the loss of loved one is a true battlefield of the mind. How do you handle the highs and lows of grief?
Pastor Riva Tims: Besides the staple Christian prayer and spiritual encouragement through the Word of God, I suggest that anyone dealing with grief, go through a grief recovery class.  Incomplete recovery from grief can have a lifelong negative effect on the capacity for happiness.  Then enemy would love for you to isolate yourself but you need to connect with others to get through the grief.

BMackWrites:  Some people say “You never get over a person’s death. You learn to live with it.” Would you agree and why?

Pastor Riva Tims: You never forget a loved one's death but you certainly can be healed of the agonizing pain.  Recovery from loss is achieved by a series of small and correct choices made by the griever. The grief recovery curriculum that we use at Majestic Life Ministries is the Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman.  Bishop Joey and Cathy Johnson of Ohio, assisted our ministries in implementing a grief recovery class and facilitated a class for our leadership to go through. Our leaders were then equipped to help others. You may always miss a love one who has transitioned to eternity and you may have triggers that remind you of your loss for the rest of your life.  However, you can learn how to cope with the triggers so that the reminders are not as painful.

BMackWrites:  Are there any words of encouragement you would like to give to those who grieve from the standpoint of a Pastor, Mom and/or Wife?
Pastor Riva Tims: For anyone experiencing a recent loss, I want to encourage you can be free of the pain, and you will experience joy once again.  Time does heal but it is necessary for us to make a concerted effort to move forward after the loss of a loved one. Matthew 11:28  says "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  The Lord promises to give us rest or peace if we cast our cares on Him.  I would encourage anyone grieving the loss of a loved one to stay connected to vine.  Stay connected to your source, which is the Lord.  Also, participate in a grief recovery class and go through the deliberate process of grief recovery. It may not seem like it today, but you will be able to smile again.

Ms. Riva is the pastor of Majestic Life Church in Orlando, Florida. She is also the author of "When It All Falls Apart". A book that includes her personal testimony of healing through the pain. An absolute must read!!!

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