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Help Grieving Friends
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The time after the holidays is not always a period of joy for people suffering loss. Family members may have passed away in the last year and the annual gathering of relatives leaves a hole in the group. How can you encourage those who struggle with loneliness and pain after everyone goes home? Here are eight suggestions to be a healing agent for your friends or family who are hurting.

Healing Agent Suggestions

Listen. Nothing comes close to this powerful but simple act. But don’t be fooled, good listening takes effort. When others are hurting or begin to cry, we are sometimes tempted to start talking ourselves. Better to sit quietly, place a hand on the shoulder, or hand them a tissue.

Allow Time. Not everyone grieves in the same way or in the same time frame. Counselors used to suggest a predictable list of steps, but people are complex and may not process their pain in the same order as someone else. It is not uncommon for bereavement to last a year or two.

Allow Emotions. When people are deeply hurting, they may express their pain by withdrawing or being angry. Outbursts of feeling may make you feel uncomfortable. Learn to be accepting and flexible. Emotions can change rapidly.

Encourage Mourning. Grieving is typically an internal, personal process whereas mourning is more of an outward expression of a loss. There are times and places for each. Those who completely avoid mourning may be gently helped to talk about their pain.

Accept Tears. When we get a piece of sawdust in our eyes, we naturally shed tears to clean out the foreign object. When we experience pain in our hearts God gave us tears to help wash out the hurt. Some believe crying may cause them to go to pieces and lose control but it can actually help hold you together.

Offer Support. When people go through loss, it can throw them for a loop. It can be helpful to simply ask them, “How can I help?” You might bring them food, take them to a funeral home, do some laundry, watch children, care for pets, etc.

Avoid Trite Words. It doesn’t help to tell someone, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “I know just how you feel.” You might have an inkling about their experience, but it is not identical to your own. Don’t say, “It was God’s will.” The Bible teaches that it was never God’s will that anyone die.

Watch for Red Flags. Some people may not grieve at all and become extremely depressed. Perhaps they talk excessively about death, they stop eating normally or quit bathing. Some may abuse alcohol and drugs. Others become suicidal. You may need to involve others in helping them.

Experiencing a serious loss is never easy. Christians can offer support to others by showing kind interest, sending cards, and praying with people. One way to show love is to share meaningful Scripture promises, such as this: “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

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