What could I possibly say to a friend who is grieving? How could anything I say or do ever ease the heart-wrenching pain that they are going through? These are the thoughts that have crossed my mind over the last year as I’ve watched people lose the ones they loved the most and I’ve fumbled through trying to be there for them.
That, however, is the key. Thats all you really can do. Be there for them. Make sure that they know that you love them and are available as a support to them. Because there is nothing you can do or say to fast forward the grieving process, to heal their hearts quicker, to make it okay.
I have to admit that I find it hard when confronted with a friends grief. My go to response used to be to take a backseat and give them space. I’d check back in when the raw grief stage had passed.
This isn’t okay.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. – Psalms 34:18, ESV
Yes, the Holy Spirit is their comforter and can help them on a spiritual and heart level, but WE are the Lords hands and feet. We need to be proactive. We are called to love those who are hurting.
Practical ways to help
- Follow their cue
This is a huge one. We all grieve differently. Some grieve openly and some grieve in private. Depending on your relationship with your friend, they may let you in or they may push you away. If its the latter, thats okay. Don’t get offended, its not what they need.
2. Show up
Through a message, through a phone call, through video chat or on their doorstep. Don’t shy away from their grief.
Let them cry, talk, share their heart, even get mad if they have to. And then keep showing up. Even when its hard. Often after the memorial service people think of it as over, but for the person whose just lost their loved one, its still a huge loss. Keep sending messages, keep encouraging. Don’t be afraid to mention their loved ones name. To keep their memory alive.
3. Avoid trite statements
Comments like. “They’re in a better place” and “God needed another angel”, are unhelpful and hold no significant meaning to a person who’s hurting. Rather recount something special about the person they loved.
4. Do something practical
If you know that their house is going to be packed with family visiting, then drop off some convenient paper items such as paper napkins, paper plates, facial tissues, paper towel and disposable cutlery.
Convenient food or snacks are also a great practical way to alleviate the pressure around hosting a crowd.
5. Offer specific help
Your friend will most often not accept an offer for help because, quite frankly, they’re emotionally exhausted and unable to think that far.
So offer to take their kids to a movie, to bring over a meal, to pick up groceries or clean their kitchen.
What are some of the ways you are there for your hurting friends?