Your friend loses a parent to cancer. Your classmate loses a sister in a drowning accident. Your church member has a miscarriage. Your cousin loses her husband to a heart attack. Your coworker loses her son in a car accident. Many of you have likely had an experience exactly or similar to one of these examples. What do you do? Likely, you want to immediately offer some comfort to the person impacted whether by offering words of solace or doing a nice deed. But have you ever considered just letting the person grieve?
Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him. (Genesis 37:34-35 NIV)
The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. (Deuteronomy 34:8 NIV)
These scriptures indicate that it takes time to grieve and that grief has a season. It is human nature to want to come to the rescue of those we love and care about even if the situation is something we can’t control or fix such as the death of a loved one. This EmpowerMoment is to encourage you to think before you act and to imagine yourself in the person’s shoes who you are attempting to help. Ask yourself, “would what I’m doing help me if I were in their situation?”
As Christians, we can quickly go into “bible mode” to “comfort” those in the throes of grief. We say things like “I know you loved her, but God loved her best” or “He’s no longer suffering, he’s with Jesus.” The list goes on and on. You may have heard it or you may have said it. The truth is depending on where the person is in the grief process those words are futile.
Having had significant experiences with tragedy and grief, here are a few helpful points:
1. It is ok to let a person grieve and it is ok for you to not try to “fix” it because you can’t. A lot of times silent presence is the best support you can give. You don’t have to fill the time with chatter and “comforting” words. Grieving a loved one is not something you can put a Band-Aid on and though the words coming out of your mouth make you feel better, it likely (at that time) has no impact on the person you are “comforting”.
2. Use the art of distraction. If you are searching for a way to help a grieving person, try taking them out to dinner or inviting them on an outing.
3. Provide them with resources for support such as books, support group information and bible verses without being pushy or overbearing. This allows them to look at the information at their own pace.
4. Let the griever lead the way. Let them set the pace for discussion. Let them cry if they want to cry, scream if they want to scream and so on while you be supportive and not try to quell the emotions.
5. Intercede on the griever’s behalf. This is probably the best and biggest way you can support the person and they don’t even have to know you are doing it. A lot of times the griever may have trouble praying through the despair or may be angry with God about what has happened. It is during these times that you keep them lifted and when they “come back around,” they are thankful.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV)
Thank You for allowing me to comfort someone in need as they are grieving a loved one. Guide me to do what is most helpful for him or her. Allow me to be a vessel of strength, faith and prayer for them during this most difficult time. Help me to understand that even though I can’t bring back their loved one, You are sovereign and know the plans for all of us. Keep him or her in Your arms of protection and salvation as they go through this difficult time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I EMPOWER you to reassess how you comfort those who grieving. I EMPOWER you to be patient with those who are grieving. I EMPOWER you to be the best support person you can be. Most of all, I EMPOWER you to keep the griever before the throne of Christ.
How can I be a better grief support person?
Mrs. Coretta Collins is a wife and mother who enjoys reading, writing, movies and spending time with family and friends. She is avid about health, healing and helping which serves her well as a Family Nurse Practitioner in a hematology and oncology practice. Striving to be led by the Lord throughout life and having overcome significant challenges, her favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Coretta is a member of St. John A.M.E. Church, Birmingham, Alabama. She resides in Calera, Alabama with her awesome husband and two wonderful sons.