The term “grief” comes from the Latin word gravis and is the natural emotional response to the loss of someone or something. The Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology defines grief as:
The most striking thing about this definition is that it presents grief as a normal reaction to the loss of the loved person or object, and adds “that it is the price to be paid for loving…” It is those demonstrations that manifest the feeling that one has for that loved one.
Dr. Pablo Polischuk, professor and clinical psychologist, writes, “When losing a loved one, belongings or health, people experience natural reactions—physiological sensations, overwhelming negative thoughts and emotions.” Here he emphasizes not only the sense of loss, but he also mentions various physiological and psychological reactions that accompany this loss. Thus, we can also affirm that there are various factors that mediate grief, such as the relationship with the person dying, the type of attachment, the circumstances of death, historical background, variables of personality, social variables, and concurrent stressors.
In terms of the processes a grieving person goes through and the emotions that engulf them, Dr. Gary Collins, clinical psychologist and Christian author, says, “When a person goes through this grieving process, they experience many emotions, including regret, despair, anxiety, guilt, loneliness, anger, confusion, feelings of worthlessness and feelings of loss (as if a part of themselves has been taken away, or something inside them has died).” The grief stage is like finding yourself in a maze, looking desperately for a way out; it is like going through a dark and scary train tunnel without the light at the end. It is a desperate situation where the person that is going through the grief deserves all our attention and help.
William Worden was the creator of the theory of grieving tasks, where he offers a model for dealing with grief. The four tasks to elaborate a normal grief are contained in his book Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy are: “(1) Accept the reality of the loss, (2) Release the feelings and emotions that accompany the grief, (3) Enable yourself to live without the deceased, and (4) Recover interest in life and in the people who are still alive.” 
Pastors and Christian counselors must know how to serve grieving families and how to help them in their grief recovery process, to find a new meaning for their grief, and eventually rekindle the core meaning of life. Here we will mention a basic pastoral guide to help people in the grieving process:
- Be an attentive listener. The person who has been hit by a grief needs a counselor who understands. The pastor must be wise to restrict himself/herself from doing much interpreting—especially from falling into the temptation to preach. He should concentrate on hearing not only the words, but also the subtle inflections of the voice, which often appear as deep sighs and moans that are difficult to vocalize.
- Give empathetic response. Empathetic response must be short but significant. Statements should gently remind the individual that the pastor is interested in their feelings. The one who is grieving desires a mature companion more than anything else—someone who will listen patiently to the fears, the guilt, and sometimes, the panic.
- Avoid judgmental, interpretative, and authoritative statements. Statements such as “It is God’s will,” “I understand what you’re going through,” “Depend on God alone,” or “Time will heal the pain” will sound as if the counselor wants to stop the process, rather than keep it going. The need to preach one more sermon to strengthen the person, or to have the last word should be set aside.
- Be willing to ask for help. When the pastor begins to understand that the grieving person is showing signs of pathological or morbid grief, he should consult an appropriate specialist immediately.
As pastors and leaders, we must be sure we understand grief, because when someone goes through it, they experience many emotions, including regret, despair, anxiety, guilt, loneliness, anger, confusion, feelings of worthlessness, and feelings of loss. The situation is desperate and deserves all our attention and help. The intensity of the feelings of the death of a loved one usually causes a deeper and more lengthy reaction. The death of a loved one concludes the direct contact experience. Our pastoral goal is to help the mourners in the process of accepting the reality of their loss, help them expose their feelings and emotions that accompany grief, and provide support for them in the saddened process of living with the loss and rekindling interest in life.