Grief Support

The Bible teaches us about the love of God for the world he created from beginning to end.  We know the familiar words from John 3:16: "For God so loved the world. . ."  And we confess that God is love (1 John 4:8).  One of God's mysterious and wonderful gifts is that we too may know love.  We give love.  We receive love.  From the moment we're born to the moment we die, we give and receive love.  And while this doesn't always happen that easily, and there are all sorts of bumps along the way, we are given glimpses into the depths of God's love in Christ as we enjoy the gift of love with the people in our lives.  It is a sad irony that the greatest pain we may feel is when someone we love so deeply dies.  The relationship that brought so much joy now brings much pain. 

We at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church have made a commitment to caring for people who are going through the wilderness of grief after the death of a loved one.  This commitment comes out of a need in our community, and it comes out of our love for those around us.  We have a desire to help those in need, to walk alongside them, and to assist them in moving out of the darkness of grief and into the light of continued living with hope and love. 

Currently we provide the the following services and resources for grieving people or caregivers:

  • We co-facilitate a grief and loss support group with Community Links (find registration information HERE).
  • We offer occasional 8-week support groups (find information HERE)
  • Our pastor, Rev Darren Dressler, is available for one-on-one pastoral counselling (with a focus on grief) or for presentations and workshops
    • Pastor Dressler is Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement (see for more information on this credential)

In addition to these services, Rev Darren Dressler and Rev Michael Keith (Pastor, St Matthew Lutheran Church, Stony Plain, AB) are in the process of obtaining the Certificate in Death and Grief Studies from the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado (  They are attending courses in order to grow in the wide body of knowledge related to grief and loss, and to thereby be available as resources to their congregations, communities, and the wider Church body. 

In order to make it easier for various groups or congregations to get a sense of what they have to offer, Pastors Keith and Dressler have put together some outlines of topics for which you may be interested in having them present.  It may be a brief lecture or seminar, or a longer workshop or course.  Whatever the case, please feel free to get in touch with either Pastor Keith or Pastor Dressler if you or your group are interested in having either of them come and assist you in growing in this wonderfully grace-filled area of work. 

Please feel free to browse the topics below.  Sessions can be tailored to the needs of your group. 

Rev Darren Dressler, CT
Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Airdrie, Alberta
Phone: 403-912-9013
Rev Michael Keith
St Matthew Lutheran Church, Stony Plain, Alberta
Phone: 780-963-2416

Introducing Grief

Are you trying to help people around you as they cope with losses in their lives?  Or perhaps you’re trying to come to terms with your own losses.  This introductory session will introduce you to some of the common misconceptions about grief – the various things that are around in our society that tell us to keep our grief on the inside, or tell us we need to go through certain stages, or that you have to move on as quickly as possible.  You will learn to distinguish between bereavement, grief, and mourning.  And you will be introduced to the six basic needs that every mourner has.  In the end you will be better equipped to care for the needs of those around you and you will be better prepared to face your own losses. 

Companioning – Walking Along with People Who Need You

Grief is not an illness.  It’s our natural response to the loss of people we love.  The only way you avoid grief is by avoiding love.  But since we love, we grieve.  When we see people we care about grieving, we naturally wish we could help out or fix the situation.  Unfortunately we tend to try and ‘fix’ the situation in much the same way as we might try to treat a common cold – prescribing a particular medication or therapy.  Instead of helping, many of the ways of treating grief that we have learned in our culture actually make it worse; they press down what needs to be let out.  Paradoxically, it is by entering into our grief, by having others who are empathetic and willing to bear witness to our pain, that we find a way out of our wilderness.  This session will introduce an approach that will help you be present to grieving people in a way that is authentic, caring, and that inspires hope.  It will release you from the burden of having to try and find the ‘right answer’ or the perfect thing to say to make it all go away.  You will be free to give thanks for the great honour and privilege it is to be present to grieving people.

Introduction to Counselling Skills for Bereavement Caregivers

In this seminar we will discuss the characteristics and skills of the caregiver that will be helpful as they companion a mourner. What are some of the qualities that caregivers can cultivate to be the most helpful? What are the skills that are needed to best communicate caring and compassion to someone in need? This seminar will better equip the participants to provide a compassionate and caring atmosphere as they provide care to someone in grief.

Let’s Talk about Funerals

I love a good funeral.  In the midst of pain and loss, there are few things that can be as moving and helpful as a good funeral.  It starts you on your path to finding healing as you come together with other people who have also been touched by a life that is now ended.  In these days many desire to get rid of funerals and most of the things that go with them.  We’re finding an increased number of people who choose not to have a ceremony at all, others who only want a celebration of some sort, or others who may even have a Church service – but only to please the older members of the family (and it better be over quickly!).  In the midst of these times it is ever important for us to reflect on the role of the funeral in the life of grieving people and the community that surrounds them. This session will explore the influences in our society that have led to the removal of funerals, it will introduce the role of ritual and ceremony, it will  demonstrate how a meaningful funeral can meet the six basic needs of mourning, and it will outline the various elements that can be used to create a meaningful funeral experience.  This session will help you gain a greater appreciation for the role of funerals and the ability to assist in creating a meaningful one for those you love.

Introduction to Complicated Mourning

There are many factors that can complicate mourning. This seminar will discuss the various  potential complications such as: sudden, unexpected death; long-term illness; strained relationships; cultural/ethnic backgrounds; religious/spiritual/philosophical backgrounds; and others. The seminar will also discuss the categories of complicated mourning: Absent, Distorted, Converted, and Chronic. The seminar will better equip caregivers with an understanding of the causes of complicated mourning and some ways to respond to those in need.