How to help someone grieving


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


God in Every Season


Today is my kind of day. It’s quiet. The smell of coffee is drifting through the house and I’m curled up in a warm, plush blanket listening to the rain fall outside. If there was a movie playing right about now and my cat was curled up in my lap, I think I could rule this moment as nothing short of perfection. All five of my senses are happy and fully satisfied right now. I’m completely peaceful.

Another Christmas has come and gone, and for someone who loves all that is associated with the holidays, I’ve already packed away our indoor decorations until next year. While I’ve enjoyed the hustle and bustle, carols, lights, gifts, and excitement, the joy of Christmas unfortunately can’t last forever. Change has to come; it’s time for a new season.

I’ve been thinking a lot about seasons lately. It’s no secret that for our family winter came and decided to enjoy an extended stay. For many months it’s been cold and bleak, and I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all wished we could fly away to somewhere warmer or hibernate until it all passed. The one thing I’ve learned during our winter, however, is while the sun may not be as bright or felt as close, it hasn’t changed its position. It’s still there, even when we can’t feel it.

The same is true with God. There have been many moments this past year when I couldn’t feel Him or see Him, but that doesn’t mean He moved. He never changes, no matter what is changing all around me. I’ve learned that in a way I never imagined. I’ve been forced to face this season of winter head on, and to trust God when He wasn’t necessarily “visible.” But looking back over this past year, I can see His fingerprints on everything. Because He doesn’t leave us when things and people around us die and leave us bare and vulnerable.

He is God in every season.

He’s God when winter ends and spring comes. When mourning is over and new life begins to bud and bloom. When the sun’s warmth can be felt again after a time of silence and extreme cold.

He’s the God of our summers. When the temperatures rise in life, and maybe for you that’s meant being held to the fire in an intense season of testing. The pressure builds and the heat increases to the point where it almost feels sweltering and unbearable. Right when you think it can’t get any hotter, fall comes and breaks the intensity a little. Spiritually, maybe that means you’ve passed the test and can relax and breathe. God didn’t move when the pressure was on. He remained steady, giving you endurance until “fall” came.

He’s God in “autumn,” the in-between season when life is good. You’ve passed your test and you can rest before winter comes. Leaves are changing and everything is crisp, cool and beautiful. You can’t imagine life being more perfect, even though fall is preparing for winter and spring. Everything is good and maybe it’s in our fall seasons when we depend on God the least because we feel we don’t need Him as much. That doesn’t mean He changes. He remains unmoved, even we our dependency waivers a little.

What I’m saying is that God can be trusted and He remains the same in every season of our lives. Just like the sun never changes its place, neither does our God. He is faithful no matter what is going on around us.

For our family, I believe for now our winter has ended and spring is here again. Our intense season of grief is changing to a time of celebration as we anticipate our sweet Caroline through adoption. I have no idea what she will be like, but I know that if she is sent to us by God, she will be the perfect gift because He is faithful. He’s been with us in every single, changing season. He’s proving His faithfulness through every step of our adoption.

I wonder which season you would say you’re in right now. I don’t you or the details of your life, but I pray today that you’ll believe with all your heart that while everything may be stripped away and laid bare around you, God never ever moves. If death or disease have come unannounced and God feels distant or silent, He’s not. If the heat is on and you’re being tested beyond what you can bear, trust His strength. And if everything in life is good and it doesn’t feel like you “need Him,” lean into Him even more. No matter what your season, He wants to be your God in it. How I pray you’ll let him.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens..” Ecc. 3:1


Even If

If I were to ask you right now to tell me your your greatest, most intense fear, what would you tell me?

I’m not talking about spiders, snakes, crowded places, or fear of heights. I’m talking about the fears that leave you paralyzed just thinking about them. The life-altering ones. The ones that make you instantly feel sick to your stomach. The fears that, if they came to pass, might change the life you always imagined for yourself.

I remember sitting in our ladies discipleship class one Sunday night as we listened to a teaching DVD by Beth Moore. Her words seemed to resonate with me that night, as she described her thoughts on this very thing– fear. I guess I was so intrigued by what she was saying because a large part of my life has been spent playing tug of war between faith and fear over one thing or another, mostly the life-altering fears. I’ll never forget what she said; it has stuck with me ever since. “If the thing you fear most were to happen, then what? Would you trust the Lord, even if?” (paraphrased)

At that time, I was four months pregnant with Collier and had no idea that just two months later, my greatest fear would become reality. Not only once, but a year later it would be a nightmare-turned-reality twice.

I’m not sure exactly how to word what I guess I had been thinking without saying up until that point, but it might go something like this: “Lord, I will trust you, but please don’t let anything horrible happen in my life. I know You’re strong and able, but I don’t want to go through anything hard. No losses, no tragedies, no disease. Just keep all the majorly difficult stuff away, and we’ll be good. Deal?”

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. God doesn’t shelter us from adversity. He doesn’t withhold hardship. He doesn’t keep all our greatest fears from happening (even though most of them probably won’t). He enters the fire with us.

I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It’s always been a favorite, but it has a deeper, more significant meaning to me now. These three young men were serving God faithfully, unashamed, wholeheartedly–and adversity came anyway. I love what they said; it’s such a bold declaration of faith!  “We know the one we serve CAN save us, but even if He doesn’t, we still choose to serve Him.” (paraphrase)

Did God save them from hardship? NO. What happens was even better–He entered the fire with them. I get chills every time I read this.  “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?…Look! I see FOUR men walking around, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25)

If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, you might want to check your pulse! Y’all, God doesn’t promise to remove your difficult circumstances or shelter you from them. He promises to walk with you in the midst of it!! He enters your pain and suffering with you.  His presence goes before you, behind you, and beside you. And in the midst of your trouble, He removes the ties that bind you so that you can walk unbound and unharmed. What a great and mighty God! My eyes are full of tears right now just thinking about it.

See, if He removed all of your difficulty, it would also remove the opportunities for Him to reveal His glory to a lost and dying world. What resulted from the the fiery furnace? People saw the glory of God and were changed. Those who were enemies of God put their trust in Him. And the three in the fire? They came out without even a hint of a smell of smoke!

ONLY GOD can do that. And He’s done it for me. My greatest fear wasn’t kept from me. It happened twice, and the Lord has been with me through it all. He has walked with me through the fire, and has brought glory to Himself in the worst of circumstances! Has it been enjoyable? No! But through it all, God has put his glory on display and accomplished more than I “could have ever asked or imagined (Eph 3:20).”

So even if Lord, I will trust you. If my greatest fears continue to become reality, I will praise you in the midst of the fire, because You’ll walk with me. Use me up and pour me out for the glory of Your name. You are worth it, even if.