Fuller Logo

Spring 2013/FSSW



CN535: GRIEF, LOSS, DEATH AND DYING. Michael Burnidge.

DESCRIPTION: This course will explore the nature of human suffering, the problem of theodicy, the meaning of pain, the mystery of healing, the discovery and impartation of hope. These and related topics will be addressed from both a theological and experiential perspective. Grief, pain, loss, separation, death and dying—the major crises of life—will be explored experientially, psychologically, systemically and culturally. The focus will be on personal growth as the preparation for pastoral presence, care-giving and counseling.

SIGNIFICANCE FOR LIFE AND MINISTRY: The major opportunities for pastoral care and counseling emerge from loss, pain, grief, death and the encounter with dying. The abilities to provide support in crisis and loss, offer a constructive theology of suffering that faces the problem of theodicy in pastoral theology, and facilitate recovery, reconciliation and reintegration are foundational for all who would seek to have a purposeful and effective life and ministry.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, the participants will have (1) encountered the existential and theological reality of their own mortality; (2) reflected deeply on the need and tools for thoughtful completion of life pilgrimage; (3) articulated the multiple processes of grieving loss, encountering death, and supporting the bereaved; (4) deepened pastoral care/counseling skills in the area of grief and loss ministry including empathy and the embodiment of incarnational presence; and (5) gained the ability to recognize, adapt and address “complicated” grief as well as “conventional” grief.

COURSE FORMAT: The course offers both content and process: understanding the nature of loss experiences, of grieving, of encountering the reality of dying, of ministry in each of these crises and owning, facing, exploring and embracing our own losses. Lecture, discussions, presentations, projects and experiential process will be parts of the whole experience of correlating theology with pastoral care and/or therapy. The class will meet once a week for a three-hour session.

REQUIRED READING: Approximately 1,200 pages from these required texts, with an additional text on the topic of the students’ choosing.

Long, Thomas G. What Shall We Say?: Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011. ISBN: 978-0802865144 (pp. 158) $25.

Swinton, John. Living Well and Dying Faithfully: Christian Practices for End-of-Life Care. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009. ISBN: 978-0802863393 (pp. 320) $25.

Walsh, Froma. Living Beyond Loss: Death in the Family. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004. ISBN: 978-0393704389 (pp. 350) $29.95.

Wright, H. Norman . The Complete Guide to Crisis & Trauma Counseling: What to Do and Say When It Matters Most! Regal, 2011. ISBN: 978-0830758401 (pp. 512) $39.99


Corr, Charles A. Death and Dying: Life and Living. Wadsworth Publishing, 2012. ISBN: 978-1111840617 (pp.816) $193.95.

Kessler, David. The Needs of the Dying: A Guide for Bringing Hope, Comfort, and Love to Life's Final Chapter. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007. ISBN: 978-0061137594 (pp. 256) $13.99.

Lewis, C. S. A Grief Observed. San Francisco: Zondervan/Harper, 1989.ISBN: 9780060652739 (pp. 96) $16.99.

Nouwen, Henri. Turn My Mourning into Dancing. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. ISBN: 978-0849945090 (pp.128) $14.99.

Rando, Therese A. Grief, Dying, and Death: Clinical Interventions for Caregivers. Research Pr Pub; 1st edition, 1984. ISBN: 978-0878222322 (pp.494) $29.95.

Toole, Mary M. Handbook for Chaplains: Comfort My People. Paulist Press; 1 edition, 2006. ISBN: 978-0809143863 (pp. 96) $8.95.

Wiersbe, Warren. Ministering to the Mourning: A Practical Guide for Pastors, Church Leaders, and Other Caregiver. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006. ISBN: 978-0802412416 (pp.240) $14.99.

Wolfelt, Alan D. Death And Grief: A Guide For Clergy. London: Routledge, 1988. ISBN: 978-0915202768 (pp. 216) $34.95.

Worden, J. William. Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, Third Edition. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2001. ISBN: 978-0826141620. (pp. 232) $40.00.


  1. Complete a five paragraph “reading summary” (i.e. one paragraph for each of the five books read) which includes a description of each book’s main theme(s) and 1-2 practical “takeaways” from each book for your future ministry. (10%)

  2. Class participation in lectures, discussions, and experiential processes. (10%)

  3. Weekly homework directives and journaling assignments. (20%)

  4. Compose, complete and present either: (a) a six-page paper or (b) a ten page “scrap book” that communicates class participant’s personal experiences with and/or views of death, loss and grief. (20%)

  5. Create and present to the class a practical ministry project in an area of particular interest to the student. (20%)

  6. Final exam (20%)


RELATIONSHIP TO CURRICULUM: Meets the MDiv core requirement in Pastoral Counseling (MIN 5).


NOTE: This ECD is a reliable guide to the course design but is subject to modification. Textbook prices are set by publishers and are subject to change.