There is no thing I know that can cause greater pain than death. It’s “sad” when it happens to someone that a friend knows. It’s even more “sad” if we connect with that person somehow such as if it is a child and we are a mom, or a grandparent and we recently lost our own. But it clenches our hearts to the core if it is someone in our own lives.
So what do you say to someone that is hurting so much at such a time? Can we begin with what not to do/say?
Why do we think it is good to offer comparisons to someone who has experienced loss? It is my opinion that it is not good at all.
“Well, at least you had ___ for (insert applicable amount of time here)” or
“When we lost ____, it was so sudden, at least you had time to say your goodbyes” or
“When we lost ___, at least it was sudden and we didn’t have to watch ___ suffer.”
Really people? I am an optimist and so I choose to believe that these statements are well-meaning. Although, I think most often these statements are out of ignorance for not knowing what to say. We just want to say something to that person to encourage them in one of the most difficult things they will face. We are fumbling, trying to discern words to heal our loved one and find ourselves stumbling around, spilling out the first thing we think is thoughtful to say.
In these moments, I personally think it is best to not speak but instead be present. If you say any words, keep them few. I love you. I’m sorry. I’m praying with/for you. Hungry? Need to talk? Simple, but kind.
Listen, actively but not taking over the conversation, just an occasional affirmation with your voice and eyes that you are “there.” More importantly, soak in every story they share, let them speak. Be authentic. And if they don’t want to speak? Just be present. If they want to be alone, don’t be offended. People grieve in different ways, some want company and some want solitude.
Above all: pray continually. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and words and just be there. Again: Be present.
And please, please do not say “God needed ___ more than you/we did so He called them home.”
I may be alone here, but I strongly believe that at a place in someone’s life where they may be thrown toward or away from God, it is terrible to fuel a reason to blame God. God is love. He is life. He is peace. He is all sufficient. All knowing. All present. He is Creator. He is eternal. He is beyond our greatest comprehension and we will never be able to understand His thoughts or methodologies (Isaiah 55:9.) You do not know why that person has passed on. Please do not pretend to. Just recognize that your sweet, precious heart just wants to comfort your friend and you are grasping for a morsel of hope to offer – and know that the sweetness in your heart is what they need. They just need you to “be.” Be with them. Be there. Be present.
To the Grieving.
Perhaps you are the one dealing with a difficult loss. By chance you have stumbled upon my blog looking for encouragement. I may not know your situation but I know the One who holds your heart and I am certain He is with you and holding you now. Did you know that He is close to the broken-hearted? That He is near to those who are crushed in spirit? (Ps 34:19) And if you haven’t heard: it’s okay to break down. It’s okay to cry, in fact, it’s healthy.
Cry and let the release come. Jesus cried at the loss of a loved one, why do we think we should do less? (John 11:35). I hate to let people see me cry but I am learning it is a very healthy thing to allow to occur. Another thing that feels great: sharing stories about that awesome person. Don’t be afraid someone is tired of hearing you describe that precious memory that you love to retell – if that person loves you – they will hear it a thousand times and will be happy to hear it a thousand more.
The best advice I can offer you though: pray. Share your heart, your anger, and your grief with God. He’s strong enough to hear your words, and hold your heart. Go to Him, and He will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). That rest that He speaks of is not for the strong – it is for the weak. I love that He loves us in the depths of weakness. That He is present and hears our cry (Ps 40:1.)
And one more idea that is a personal favorite: write. Buy a notebook and journal your thoughts. There is a profound amount of release that comes when we get our thoughts out.
Okay, and one really last one: don’t be afraid to seek out grief counseling. There are many wonderful people that are incredibly gifted that can help you process the grief. You do not have to do this alone.
Not even sure who this is for, or why I wrote this tonight but I hope someone is encouraged.
I pray that you find peace and hope in the arms of Christ,