Have you wondered how to comfort someone who is grieving? This can be one of the hardest and most complex questions to answer. You want to find the right words to comfort someone, right?
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Do you realize it’s possible you can help a loved one through a difficult time such as grief? Here’s how to comfort someone who is grieving in 5 practical ways.
This is a continuation of our Hope for Grief: A Grief and Loss Collaboration Series. The following post is written by Kim Peacock over at Wild Victorious Heart.
BE SURE TO PIN ME FOR LATER
At some point in all our lives, we receive that phone call, message, or hear by word of mouth that someone we know has experienced a devastating loss.
It may be an accident that changed their lives forever in an instant or death after a lingering illness. The situations may vary, but the pain is there regardless.
How to Comfort Someone Who is Grieving
Grief causes pain no matter the circumstance. We long to comfort our hurting friend, but the feeling of inadequacy can be overwhelming.
These feelings may cause us to shy away from their pain, thinking that we have nothing to offer them in their grief.
What to say to Someone Who is Grieving
So, what do we say to or do for a family wrecked by sorrow? How can we help the mama who has lost her only child or comfort a husband whose wife recently lost her battle to cancer?
Most of us have been on that side of grief, longing to comfort someone, but our words seem useless to bring solace in their sorrow.
Some of us have been on the other side – drowning in grief, desperate for the support of friends amid our pain.
When our daughter Nicole passed away in an accident, our friends and family surrounded us, displaying their deep love and commitment to our hurting family.
Their presence gave us the fortitude to face our sorrow and walk into the hard road in front of us. Though no magical words took away our sorrow, their presence brought us comfort. They taught us how to love others in grief.
How to help someone grieving
God of All Comfort
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3
Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:4
The first thing they did was show up. It takes courage to come face to face with someone who is brokenhearted. It is not enough to feel pity or have empathy.
Those emotions are passive and make us aware of the suffering of others, but at a distance. It takes compassion.
Compassion is defined like this: “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
When confronted with someone’s pain, we often feel the need to fix it as quickly as possible. Is it compassion that drives us or is it that suffering makes us feel ill at ease?
Does other’s misfortune make us uncomfortable, so we try to fix the problem so that we can get back to our comfort zones?
It may be all of the above, all at once, but most of all, I believe compassion drives us to alleviate the suffering of others. Compassion compels us to step into their pain and walk the grief journey with them.
That is sometimes hard to do because many of us carry the pain of our own and are afraid that we will be unable to hold up under the weight of someone else’s sadness. You must be brave enough to be there for your hurting friend.
After Nicole’s accident, ladies from our church and friends from our community were there for us. They quietly came bearing gifts from their hearts of food, cards, and bottled water.
Often, we didn’t even know who had been there, but our needs were met; the kitchen was clean, and our animals were fed. Their actions and care became a salve to our wounded hearts.
They perceived our needs and took care of them. They didn’t say “call me if you need anything” because I didn’t know what I needed. I could barely function.
If there is a doubt, ask specifically if it would be okay or helpful if I…. fill in the blank. But some needs are apparent and require attention. If the dog needs to be fed, feed him.
If the plants are wilting, water them. Wipe off the counter, empty the trash, but do so with no expectation of recognition or response. They may never know who did those things for them but are so grateful that they were done.
Grief can make you feel isolated and deserted, like no one else in the world can understand your pain. For that reason, you must listen to your hurting friend without judgment.
Some pain just needs to be expressed and heard. After Nicole passed away, there were those who layered words on my broken heart out of their desire to make me feel better.
They tried to fix my pain. The problem with that was I was crushed with grief, and there were no words or actions that could fix me right then. I just needed to know that I was not alone and had the freedom to express my sorrow.
Remember, a person in grief is trying to make sense of their pain and needs a safe place in which to do that. Allow them the space to express their sorrow without trying to fix them.
No platitudes of comfort will mend their broken hearts. Mere words can’t take away their pain, but words can be powerful. Sometimes in the desire to help, we may try to shower the situation with words, inflicting more pain on our hurting friend.
There will be a time to say words of comfort to a friend who is grieving. While there are no perfect words to say, your words can be helpful or hurtful.
Comments like, “I know how you feel,” or “he is in a better place,” even “at least you had her for 17 years,” are not helpful. They may be accurate but do not bring comfort to someone in the desolation of grief.
Remember that even though you may be feeling sad about the loss, you mustn’t make it about yourself. It is helpful to keep your words short and simple.
I recently heard a quote:
“Broken hearts can’t swallow big paragraphs.”R.J. Barrett
That is so true.
What to say to someone who is grieving
Our capacity for a lot of words or concentration can be very limited in grief.
Some of my greatest comforts came from those who showed up without expectation of what my reaction would be and just listened.
A few simple words spoken from the heart will speak volumes and bring comfort.
Examples Might Be:
I’m so sorry you have to walk this road, or I’m so sorry you are hurting.
Share memories of how their loved one impacted your life or what you loved about them. Say their loved one’s name.
Ask how you can pray for them or even a simple “I love you” all express that they are not alone in their suffering.
The main point is to keep it simple. Cards and notes were especially helpful to me. I didn’t usually read them right away, but I cherished them in the weeks to come when the visitors began to thin out, and I felt alone.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Ecclesiastes 9-10
Be There After the Crowds Leave
Eventually, people go back to their routines, and the grieving person is left to try to find their footing in the “New Normal” of their lives.
It is then that the full weight of sorrow can feel crushing. It is during this time that your hurting friend needs you the most.
They may feel forgotten and alone as they watch the rest of the world move on. Calls, texts, and cards are beautiful reminders that they are not forgotten.
In Closing, How to Comfort Someone Who is Grieving
Don’t underestimate the power of your presence and your love without expectations. They may not be able to express their need or even their gratitude, but your presence is what matters.
Every day, the sun would continue to rise. And every day, I awoke and tried to process the events of the past week. Every day precious people would show up to love us and support us.
Some loved on us in tangible yet subtle ways, arriving, doing what needed doing, and leaving without me even seeing them or being aware of their visit.
Friends, acquaintances, and loved ones would fill the fridge with food and bottled water and clean up messes that needed to be cleaned.
Some of our 4-H and horse show friends perceived our need, showing up to feed and water the animals. They then went above and beyond by cleaning the stalls. They didn’t know what to say, but they came.
Their courage helped us to be courageous.
Going Home, Victorious Heart
Be sure to check out Kim’s book on how to comfort someone who is grieving below.
Kim Peacock’s Bio
My name is Kim Peacock. God has rescued me from me more times than I can count, and I’m so thankful for His infinite grace and mercy in my life.
My husband Larry and I have six amazingly, unique kids who have brought beautiful color to our lives. Some of those kids are now gifting us with grandkids, who have us completely wrapped around their little fingers.
In 1998 our oldest daughter Nicole was killed in a tragic off-roading accident. When Nicole went to Heaven, darkness invaded our world, and we wondered if our family would survive the crushing pain of grief.
As we grappled through our sorrow, we learned how to live in the “new normal” of life without Nicole. It was in that journey that God gave me the passion for living Victoriously in grief and helping others to do the same.
We were high desert dwellers in Southern California for most of our lives. I loved the stark beauty of the desert and felt at peace when I was able to be in its wide-open expanse.
However, a few years ago, we felt the tug on our hearts to leave the familiar and move to the faraway land of Tennessee. We settled in a log house, surrounded by woods in Mt. Juliet, TN.
It was hard to move away from all we had ever known. It was hard to leave the home where our memories were made and the place that Nicole’s earthly body now lay.
But God never calls us without a plan. The blessings of the move to Tennessee have been more than I could have asked or imagined.
There is a different kind of beauty, a different kind of nature to wrap myself in, and a different kind of healing that continues in my soul. Wildvictoriousheart.com
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