by Lauren Allen
Someone who really helped me hang on to my faith in that area was my former youth pastor, Derek. The way Derek lived, and still lives, his life for Christ never ceases to amaze me. He always took the time to ask me how I was doing. If I was having a bad day, he would drop everything, no matter how busy he was at the moment, just to listen. He wouldn’t ramble on about how “the sun will come up tomorrow” and “life will go on”. He always reminded me that even in hard times, God is still good. He would finish our conversation by praying over me and reminding me that he would continue to pray for me. I truly believe God used Derek in my life to show me how all I had to do was trust God, and everything else would fall into place.
Supporting a Grieving Friend
One thing I was asked to talk about in this article is how you can help a friend or family member who is grieving. To be completely honest, I am still not sure how to answer this question. The answer is different in every situation. The loss of a parent, I’m sure, is much different than the loss of a sibling, or the loss of a friend. Losing someone is different for every person, but pain and loneliness always occur in various ways, shapes, and forms. Some people need a phone call or visitors every day. Others just need to be alone. For me, I just needed someone to listen when I needed to talk. Someone who wasn’t going to try to tell me how everything was going to be OK, and that God had it all under control. I already knew that in my heart, but believe me, I got sick of hearing it. I would say that the best thing you can do for someone who is grieving is to just let them know that you are there for them. Don’t bug them 24/7, but don’t distance yourself from them either, even if they don’t respond to you right away.
It will take some people a long time to respond. It is extremely hard to tell people how you’re feeling; especially when you know they won’t understand. It’s even harder opening up to someone you rarely talked to before your loss. Don’t be offended if someone who is grieving doesn’t open up to you. It’s a hard thing for them to do, and if they aren’t ready, then they aren’t ready. They may never be ready. You can’t expect someone who you’re not close with to just spill all their feelings out to you. Don’t preach to them. Don’t make it about you. Don’t talk nonstop and overwhelm them. Simply sit, listen, and be there for them. Here is a list I found of 17 things to keep in mind when helping someone who is grieving (some of them I’ve already mentioned):
- Everyone does not grieve the same way.
- Be there. Make them a priority if you really want to help them.
- Be silent together. It may feel awkward for you at first but they need it sometimes. Don’t make them feel like it’s their job to keep the conversation going.
- Be specific when offering help. They aren’t thinking ahead; they are just trying to get through the day. If you know something needs to be done that you can help do, offer to do that.
- Bring food. No, you can’t have enough. It helps feed all their other visitors.
- Take initiative in practical things. If you see dishes in the sink, it doesn’t hurt to do them. Little things like that can be a huge help.
- Use Bible verses with care. Not all verses about death apply to their situation.
- Don’t be offended. Guaranteed, they are not trying to hurt your feelings.
- Invite them to do things. Breakfast, lunch, coffee, movies, etc. Wait a while before any big, upbeat gatherings or parties. They won’t feel like “partying” for a while.
- Don’t send them a never-ending text they might feel they have to send a long reply to. Just short “thinking about you” texts can put a smile on their face.
- Give gift cards. It gives them a reason to go out to dinner or helps them buy stuff they need (example: guests that come to visit use toilet paper…when you have a lot of guests you go through a lot of toilet paper).
- Some things don’t need to be said. Think it through before you say it.
- Don’t compare grief. Every situation is different.
- Run interference for them. If you see someone talking their ears off, politely interrupt if possible.
- Remember that this is not about you.
- Remember holidays, special days and anniversaries. The simplest things like sending a card, text, or even a quick phone call can let the family know that you’re thinking about them.
- Be slow to complain around someone who is grieving.
Be Tactful when Asking Questions
In particular, something I really want to caution you about is asking someone who is grieving “How are you doing?” This was a question I hated answering. It was never going to be the typical answer, “good”, and I felt bad saying that I was “just alright”, but I also wasn’t going to lie and make it seem like life was normal or fine. I was miserable, but no one wanted to hear that. If you are going to really ask someone how they are doing, make sure you are prepared for a real answer, no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel. Be sincere when you ask or don’t ask at all. I will say this again, though…they may not open up to you. And that’s OK! At least they will know that you really care about them. That’s all some people need.
Grief Does Not End
Something else to be very careful about is putting a time limit on someone’s grief. It takes time; so please don’t rush them. I am learning that grief never ends, it just changes. I beg you, PLEASE check yourself and make sure you are not rushing someone through their grief. Don’t push them to get rid of loved ones’ belongings, give them away or even move them. They will do those things when they’re ready. Don’t change the subject when they start talking about their loved one. That’s their way of grieving. Just listen. They need that. Posting pictures on social media, or sending a text saying how much they miss their loved one or how lonely they feel is not a cry for attention. It is their way of reaching out. It takes no more than a minute to send an encouraging reply just to let them know that you are there for them.
Sharing is not a Cry for Attention
A long time ago, I posted a picture of Sidney with the caption, “Feeling so lonely”. One comment suggested that I was posting pictures for attention, and also that I never wanted to hangout when they asked me, although that particular person had never actually reached out to me, either to ask how I was doing or if I wanted some company. My only intention in posting that picture was to share Sidney’s sweet smile, hoping it would bring a smile to someone else’s face. Suppress the motivation to make someone else’s grief about you. It’s not about you.
Not everything I have written above applies to every person experiencing grief. I cannot speak for anyone else when I write this; I can only speak from my own experience and tell you what has helped me get through this very, very difficult time.
I want to thank all the people that have been there for me and my family and have kept us in their prayers. You have truly been a blessing to us. Thank you to my friends who haven’t left my side through all of this (you know who you are). A special thank you to my best friend Julia. I couldn’t have written this article without her excellent grammar skills and support. And thank you to everyone that took the time to read this. I hope it allows you to help someone you know who is grieving.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain; for all these things have passed away”.
I also want to thank Lauren for being so open and authentic, and being willing to talk about such a difficult ordeal. Sidney’s life touched many people, even in memorium and Lauren’s story is comforting to others who have lost people dear to them. I believe many of the insights she shared in this piece will encourage others to reach out to the hurting with confidence and compassion. — Marie