We often don’t know what to say or do, because no words or deeds will erase the pain or undo the loss. But neither do we want to leave our loved ones alone in their grief, so what can we do? Here are five ways to help someone who is grieving.
By Christine McParland
Helping someone who is grieving can feel as challenging as experiencing grief yourself. We often don’t know what to say or do, because no words or deeds will erase the pain or undo the loss. But neither do we want to leave our loved ones alone in their grief, so what can we do? Here are five ways to help someone who is grieving.
Everyone goes through grief differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to comforting them. This is where prayer comes in. It may sound cliché, but it’s true. Before reaching out to someone, pray about it and let the Holy Spirit lead you. He knows that person’s needs best, and he knows how to guide you to help meet those needs. God’s Word promises wisdom to us if we ask in faith (James 1:5).
Offering well-intentioned phrases like “this, too, will pass” or “life is hard, but God is good,” regardless of how true they are, often adds to the pain of those who are grieving. Instead of saying anything at all, offer a listening ear and allow the person to share whatever they are ready to share. If they don’t feel like talking about it yet, give them space. It’s okay. Let them know you’re there for them, but don’t pressure them.
Scripture provides an example of this in Job 2:13, when Job’s friends came to comfort him and sat with him in silence for a full week: “No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words” (NLT). As we see in the rest of the book of Job, once his friends started talking, it went downhill from there.
3. Be present
Your compassionate presence is far more comforting than anything you could say to a grieving loved one. When Jesus went to see Mary and Martha after their brother, Lazarus, had died, what most moved the mourners were not his words but his tears: “Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, ‘See how much he loved him!’” (John 11:35-36, NLT). This is especially remarkable because Jesus knew he would soon raise Lazarus back to life, yet the pain of those he loved moved his heart to grieve with them.
As you offer comfort to your grieving loved ones, don’t underestimate the power of simply being present with them. Create a safe space for them to feel their pain with you if they’re comfortable with that. Even just knowing that you are available for them is a comfort.
4. Lend a helping hand
It’s hard to keep up with the daily demands of life when going through the grieving process. Simple acts of service like bringing a meal, running an errand, or babysitting can go a long way to help alleviate stress during a season of grief. Make sure to ask first, and don’t be offended if they’re not ready to accept help yet. Often, people will appreciate your offering to help just as much as anything you actually do for them.
5. Offer resources
Resources such as grief support groups, counseling, or books can help your loved one navigate this challenging season in a safe and healthy way. Depending on the person and where they are at in the grief process, consider suggesting one of these resources as an additional support on their journey. The Life Recovery Workbook for Grief is an easy-to-use guide to help your loved ones process their grief while staying close to God. While it’s ideal for a group study, this workbook is easily adaptable to individual study for those who aren’t yet ready for a group setting.
These five ways to help someone who is grieving are by no means a comprehensive list. Grief is a learning process both for those going through it and for those trying to help them. Don’t worry about getting it right but remember to “do everything with love” (1 Corinthians 16:14, NLT). Your love as expressed through your listening presence, acts of service, or any other way you feel led to minister can be a source of comfort to your loved ones in this challenging season of their lives.
The Life Recovery Workbook for Grief by Stephen Arterburn M. ED and David Stoop
Let’s start now on a twelve-step path that will lead us out of the death grip of grief into the restoration of life. In the Life Recovery Workbook for Grief, discover real-life stories of fellow travelers, great questions for individual or group discussion, and a Bible-centered approach to freedom. Twelve beautiful blessings await after our hard work on the journey of recovery from grief.