Ever since I entered the blogging world, most all that I’ve had on my heart to write has been the spiritual lessons I’ve learned along our journey of loss and adoption. The Lord has been so good to me, and I wouldn’t trade the close walk I’ve had with him the past few years for anything in the world. When something is that good, it just has to overflow.
However, I’ve had a few years to do some reflection on something that I feel is very important and not talked about enough. That is, from my personal experience, how can I help someone who is grieving?
Grief is such an uncomfortable place to be, both for the one who has lost and for those who are walking beside someone grieving. Most people, I’ve found, really don’t know how to handle grief at all. Because of that, we end up saying the wrong things, not saying anything at all, or worst yet, avoiding the issue altogether.
So, while I’m not an expert by any means, here are a few things (in no particular order) I’ve learned from my season of loss that I believe may be the most helpful to you.
- Awkward silences are OKAY. Yes, I understand that sitting in silence with someone hurting is very uncomfortable. We are a people who love words, and when words aren’t being spoken we find ourselves thinking of what we might could say to fill the awkward void. But, many times those moments of silence can be meaningful and healing for the person hurting. They’re times to think, process, or let your mind rest. When trauma and loss is fresh and new, your mind can be bombarded with thoughts and questions. The last thing you need is more words and thoughts to process. One good example of this from the Word of God is actually from Job’s “friends,” believe it or not. While they made quite a few mistakes and said some very hurtful words, the best thing they did for Job was to come and sit in silence with him for SEVEN days (Job 2:13). How many of us are willing to make ourselves uncomfortable for an entire week in order to minister to another who is hurting? But I tell you this in love– do it anyway.
- Give the person grieving opportunities to speak of the loved one they lost. Sometimes the most healing thing you can do is let the person talk about the one they miss the most. Often we go to great lengths to avoid the subject, thinking we might upset the person if we bring up the loved one’s name. Actually, it couldn’t be more opposite. Letting your grieving friend talk about their lost loved one can actually be very life-giving. It sends the message that you valued their life, and that can be the very best gift to give your friend!
- Remember important days. Grief comes in waves, and some of those waves hit the hardest on certain days. Birthdays, anniversaries of the day they passed, wedding anniversaries–while they can bring wonderful memories, they can also be reminders of the void left when their loved one passed. Try to remember those days (I know it can be hard), and send a card, make a phone call, shoot them a text, make a visit, or offer a hug.
- As much as you want to, don’t try to fix them. The only thing that will “fix” the grief they feel is the Lord binding their wounds and healing their hearts (Psalm 147:3). There is no Christian cliche that can fix their pain. In my experience, those little quips can actually be really hurtful. Sayings like “just trust God” or “everything happens for a reason,” while well intended, very rarely offer comfort. Resist the urge to say them. Instead, pray for them. Tell them you love them. Cook them a meal. Hold them when they cry. Ask them if there’s something they need. Those are the things that help the most.
And if you’re reading this and you are the one who has been walking through a season of grief, what I would say to you is this:
- Be gracious to people. Grief is hard, but it’s hard on those trying to offer you comfort, too. So many people say and do things that aren’t helpful because they care SO much about you. They just wish they could take away your pain, and they hurt right along with you. Offer them grace, even when they mess up.
- God is able to handle ALL of your emotions. Bring him your anger, your disappointment, your sadness, your confusion, your shock, your deep, deep hurt. Bring HIM all your broken pieces. Not only is He strong enough to handle your hurt, but He hurts right along with you. He’s just as angry as you are that you lost a child, parent, or spouse. He never wanted you to experience death. That wasn’t in His original plan; it was a result of sin. He knew how much sin would hurt you, and that’s why He gave His own Son to be hurt and die for you. He’s been the “parent” who watched His son die, but He’s also the one who brought death to life. He can and He will redeem what is broken in your life. Keep giving it all to Him.
- Don’t rush your grief. Just because someone else seems to have it all together a month after his or her loss, does not mean your faith is weak because you’re still hurting. Your journey is your journey, and God is writing your own story at an entirely different pace than that other person. He will make it beautiful in His time.
I hope these are helpful to someone. My family has been blessed to have so many people who loved us through our grief. To all those who sat through the awkward silences and have supported us along our journey, the words “thank you” will never be enough. May the Lord bless you for all your loving kindness toward us, and may the Lord bless you as you comfort others.