HELPING FRIENDS IN GRIEF
I’ve had a lot of experience with grieving. More than I’d like. Each death has a different character. My mother lost a long battle with cancer and much of the heavy grieving happened before she died. My grandparents were old — the kind of people you expect to die. But it took them a while. In some ways it was a relief when they finally died. My brother died suddenly in a way that rocked my world. I will take my dad’s long goodbye from Alzheimers over that any day.
Sometimes people that haven’t experienced a lot of grief personally have a hard time trying to help friends who are grieving. They want to help but they don’t know how. Let me give you a few pointers. I wrote this a few years ago and many of you have done these exact things for me and my family during this difficult season. It really helps. Thank you!
1. Note up.
Send a simple text, email, FB message or note saying “I’m thinking of you” or “I’m praying for God to comfort you and give you peace” or “I’m so sad and I’m here if you need me”.
2. Show up.
Just go sit with them. Don’t ask a bunch of questions. They will talk when they are ready. Just be there. This takes time and it’s often boring and depressing. Meaningful conversations with grieving people rarely happen in a phone call or short encounter. Be in it.
3. Shut up.
Don’t say things like, “He’s in a better place” “God must have wanted him in heaven” or “It’s all part of God’s plan”. These cliches create more questions than they give answers. Better to just say, “I’m so sorry.” and leave it at that.
4. Give up.
You can’t fix someone’s grief. You can only wait and help them not to make agreements with the enemy about it. Just empathize. Don’t try to fix them.
5. Grow up.
When someone is grieving and they don’t call you back, text you back, seem like themselves, or otherwise respond the way you want them to, don’t make it about you. Don’t ask them, “What’s wrong? Did I do something? Why don’t you care that I’m here for you? Why are you ignoring me.?” etc. Don’t take it personally. Let them grieve and get over it.
6. Look up.
Just pray for them and pray with them. Even praying with someone on the phone or leaving your prayer on their message can be greatly comforting. A friend of mine called me after my brother died and I was too sad to answer the phone or talk to anyone. He got it since he had been through it. So you know what he did? He left a message on my voicemail saying he was thinking of me and wanted to pray for me but I didn’t need to call him back but he wanted to pray for me. Then he prayed on my voicemail! It was so great I saved the voicemail.
Don’t be afraid of people in their grief. Just note up, show up, shut up, give up, grow up and look up. You’ll be fine. So will they.