In 2 Corinthians 1:4, Paul assures us that God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” Can you help your loved one connect with someone who shares a similar journey of grief and loss? Sometimes it feels as if people can only truly understand our pain if they’ve “been there and done that.” Support groups such as Grief Watch can be valuable allies in the process of healing from loss.
Most people know how to be kind and serve others, but here are a few things to NOT say to someone in grief:
1. Don’t tell your friend that he shouldn’t feel sorrow over his loss. Instead, reassure him that grieving is a natural response.
2. Don’t trivialize or downplay your friend’s grief or sorrow—this is probably not the time for a lecture on starving children in developing countries.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask, “How are you doing?” But only inquire if you’re willing to take the time to listen!
4. Don’t say, “You should just snap out of it!” Rather say, “Grief takes time to work through. Is there any way that I can help?”
5. Don’t ignore or avoid your friend during his time of grief, but also don’t pressure him to engage socially—be available while allowing sufficient “space” for him to process his grief.
6. Avoid speculating about all the possible reasons why God might have allowed your friend to experience loss; instead, focus on providing reassurance of God’s continued presence.
7. Don’t try to force your friend to talk about her thoughts or feelings; allow these conversations to come in their natural time.
8. Don’t encourage, facilitate, or enable harmful or suicidal thoughts or actions; instead, off er a compassionate, listening ear while gently reaffirming the genuine hope we have in Christ. If you are concerned that your friend may attempt to commit suicide or otherwise harm himself or others, seek professional assistance.
Sometimes a friend needs to see a medical doctor, pastor, or counselor; if so, offer to drive her and wait with her.
When the time is right, share articles or books that help your friend understand what to expect in the near and more distant future. If she doesn’t have a church home, offer to pick her up for church and take her to dinner. For families dealing with a disability, a Joni and Friends Family Retreat is a great opportunity to connect with others managing similar lifestyle changes. The new relationships, encouragement, and refreshment gained at a Family Retreat help many families press on with renewed hope and vigor.
The truth is that life, with all its heartache and hardship, is full of questions—many of which cannot be answered this side of eternity. Grief is painful, but one day God will make everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This is why we must leave our toughest questions with Jesus—the One who knows and understands our hardship, whose grace and comfort is a soothing salve for our souls.
Help a Friend: Grief by Joni Eareckson Tada
Reaching out to a friend or family member who is grieving can seem difficult—you might be afraid of saying the wrong thing or not sure what to say at all. How can you help someone who is grieving? What can you do? From an overview on the stages of grief to helpful tips on what to say (and not say), this refreshing and easy-to-understand pamphlet will equip you with everything you need to know to support your friend or relative when they need you most.
- Gain the confidence you need to support your grieving friend rather than avoid them
- Learn the differences between when to offer help and when to just listen
- Know what NOT to say, and learn what you can say to comfort your friend
- Get dozens of practical and helpful tips and Bible verses to cheer up, support, and comfort a grieving friend
From denial and numbness to anger and depression, grief can be a very confusing time. People often wonder if what they are feeling is normal. Understanding the grieving process is an essential part of knowing how to comfort someone and how to walk with them towards God’s healing. Learn more here!