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Grief Recovery Retreat for Pastors at Whitestone

Whitestone will host a 4 day / 3 nights workshop and retreat for Pastor/Spouses who have lost a child, grandchild, or spouse on Aug. 8-11, 2016. Grief is an individual process but Spark of Life, a national grief recovery ministry has been helping folks find strength and comfort after the loss of a close loved one. There are some scholarship funds available. Call Paul for specific information on the workshop 865.389.7182.  – Paul

Below is a story from David Matthews, Founder of Spark of Life on personal loss and the need for grief recovery.


When I was 20 and contemplating entering the ministry as my profession, a trusted mentor warned me with these words: “David, many people assume that there are three sexes – female, male, and pastors. Be aware.”

At the time, I didn’t quite get it. However, I believe I bought into that for a while, trying to be a little non-human. But pastors, as most know, are human beings as well. We experience life with hurts, pain, weaknesses, sins, and loss as others do. We are not immune to this fallen world and all its pain.

The toughest time in my ministry was when our grandson died. We felt powerless to help anyone else. His death affected my counseling, and my emotions as I stood to preach every Sunday. I felt empty, alone, angry, and deeply confused, even more than normal!

And I was weary.

One day, I broke. I told the church what I thought, how angry I was with God, and how I had nothing left in the emotional tank. And I learned some valuable lessons.

  1. Grievers, even pastors, simply MUST give themselves permission to grieve.
  2. Deeply grieving does NOT mean one has a failing faith. This includes questioning God, and even disagreeing with God’s non-action to intervene and heal. I seem to remember Jesus asking the big ‘why’ question.
  3. Being honest with one’s feelings, frustrations, questions, etc. and sharing these in appropriate ways, even from the pulpit, is quite healthy – both for you and your hearers.
  4. It is OK for spiritual leaders to seek help when they are struggling with whatever. Even Jesus one day asked three friends to help him – “Keep watch while I pray” he pleaded with them.

Shortly after Josiah’s death, God led us to begin Spark of Life, a non-profit organization that offers three-day Grief Recovery Retreats which have a simple mission: “We exist to give hope to grievers, that though life can never be the same after devastating loss, life can be one day rich and fulfilling again.”

As of March 2015, we have conducted 44 retreats serving over 600 grievers. These retreats are open for any who have experienced loss. Many pastors and their spouses have attended, with many losing children, and others with various other losses. We have even had pastors attend who wanted to learn how to help grievers better.

People ask us often, “How do you do what you do, dealing with death all the time?” I usually answer that question with another question – “How could we not do what we do? We actually deal with Life all the time. In every retreat we lead, we see much more Life than we do death.”

You see, death cannot defeat true Life. I hate death. It pains me to see those I love, and even those I don’t know, experience deep grief and hurt and pain when they lose a loved one. I know you don’t like it either. But this I know – Life triumphs. The grave is empty. And therein lies hope; therein is the Spark of Life.


David Mathews
Co-Founder and Executive Director