Seasons of Grief—Calvary Chapel Chino Hills Ministers to the Hurting
Story by Margot Bass
During the last six months of the response to COVID-19, Seasons of Grief, a ministry out of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, CA, was put on hold. The vision of the group is to minister to people during a time of sorrow and loss. According to co-founder Brad Stieler, being unable to provide emotional support has been very difficult for everyone. The Stielers are pleased to have restarted their classes last week, which can often consist of between 50 to 70 people.
Brad and Kim Stieler of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, CA, began ministering to people grieving the loss of loved ones in 1999, two years after losing their 13-year-old daughter Erin to leukemia. “Even though my wife and I lost the same daughter, our grieving was different,” Brad shared. “We must not put expectations on others to grieve like we do—we must be willing to listen to each other’s hearts and give grace and understanding to their grief.”
For over 20 years, they have shared the healing power of Christ with more than 900 people through an eight-week, biblically based class called Seasons of Grief. Brad encourages journaling to work through emotions and not being ashamed of tears. “As we travel the road of grief, Christ can give us joy again,” he said, for the LORD raises those who are bowed down (Psalm 146:8b).
“Let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can. Focusing on the positive things that you know, and can do, will help you not sink into despair.”—Brad Stieler
The Pandemic and Grief
The reality of pandemic restrictions can strain—or even derail—the grieving process, sending our emotions out of control, Brad cautioned. “What you may not realize is that these are additional, although temporary, grief issues that have been thrust upon us that we may not [formerly] have thought of in that way before. They include being unable to make final arrangements for our loved ones, a job loss, lack of connection with family and friends, or a cancelled vacation. Just the sheer loss of what once was normal can throw us into a state of confusion, not knowing what to do or where to turn next.”
Brad calls this “anticipatory grief”—when our mind goes to the future and we imagine the worst. “We begin to think only of the worst possible things that can happen instead of reminding ourselves of the blessings we have,” he noted.
Managing Grief and Loss
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13
Brad asserted that we do have to grieve these new losses. “Acknowledging them and understanding that they are an inconvenience—but also temporary—will go a long way in relieving the anxiety that they can cause. Then, we need to make time to grieve our loved one’s loss. We cannot lump [all our losses] together. Each must be individually grieved. Yet, we grieve with the hope that God provides through His Word.”
Brad urges the grieving, “Let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can. Focusing on the positive things that you know, and can do, will help you not sink into despair. If your family is safe and not sick, that is a huge blessing. You can protect yourself by washing your hands and wearing a mask when needed; you can reach out to other family and friends via phone or social media.”
Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief that will manifest in different ways, even in our families, Brad warned. “Be patient with yourself and others. Stock up on compassion. Most of all, pray and spend time with the One who is in control and can calm your fears and grief through His Word. We need to put our trust and hope in the One who is in control to help and guide us.”
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
Healing and Hope
Seasons of Grief sends out monthly “encouragement letters” to lift the spirits of all past attendees, letting them know they are still prayed for and not forgotten.
“The power of His healing to those we have met and ministered to over the years has been amazing. We have developed many friendships and bonds as we have traveled the road of grief to God’s healing,” Brad reflected. “We have seen the joy of life return to those who looked to Jesus for their comfort. Even though we miss our loved ones, God’s plan through these trials has given us the hope to move forward, to comfort others along the way.”
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.