Friday, May 29, 2015

Hope for a Grieving Heart

Practical Advice When Speaking to a Person Experiencing a Loss


We have all been there, someone you know had lost a person close to them. You are standing there, face to face, and you don’t know what to say.  If you were like me, before my losses in life, you either…


A. said nothing at all, gave a sad look and quickly left before you had to say something,  
B. said the worst thing possible.

As anyone who has experienced loss will tell you, they have had both A. and B. happen to them.  Most grieving people have learned to deal with this, and make the most of things, but if you really want to minister to someone who has experienced loss, the following are just a few practical things that have helped not just me, but others I have spoken and ministered to.


Don’t say “If you need anything call me.”  You may really mean what you are saying, but most grieving people use all of their energy getting from one minute of the day to the next. The thought of picking up to phone, and making a phone call is daunting, therefore most will never make the first move.  Most grieving people are really hoping that someone would care enough to call them, to check on them, to seek out what they need.


Don’t say “they are in better place.”  If the person who has passed was a Christian, this is certainly a true statement, and it may bring comfort later, but in the first days of a loss, it is not what a grieving person wants to hear.  All they can think about is missing their loved one, and wishing they were with them at that moment.  Say instead something like, “I know how much you are missing ___________, I am praying God will grant you peace that passes all understanding, and that God Himself will heal the hole in your heart that you are feeling with your loss.”  This acknowledges the loss and the pain that is associated with it, plus it offers prayers for peace, which truly can only come from God.


Do ask open ended questions:  don’t ask the question how are you doing?  You will usually get a “fine” and that is it.  Most grieving people don’t even quite know how to answer, and instead to trying to put words to what they are feeling, they say something that will make the conversation end so they can get out of it.  Ask a question, like “how are you holding up?” This type of question will usually get a more honest answer.  Ask about their struggles with something like “What is your biggest struggle today?” or “What do you need help with today?”



Do make yourself available, for when the grieving person wants to talk, or needs something.  Always make the first move.


In the initial days of a loss, even scripture can seem like platitudes. However well meaning, and appropriate it might seem, real comfort comes with time.  Just be there, to listen and to cry with the person is usually all a grieving person is seeking.  Scripture will definitely help later.


Do send cards on a regular basis.  Cards are comforting, but usually stop coming shortly after the funeral is over.  To get a card a month or two after is very comforting, it means you haven’t forgotten.  Take note of the date and send a card on the anniversary, this lets the grieving person know you still haven’t forgotten.


The main thing is the grieving person wants to know that you care, now is not the time to walk away, but to draw close.  Follow their lead; if they want to talk, listen. If they want to hear what you have to say, they will tell you.  Mostly just be there, and always, pray, pray, pray.




Friday, May 22, 2015


Take Heart!
John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (NASB)
These are some of the last words spoken by Jesus to his disciples before he went to the Cross, he was trying to prepare them for what was to come, and while they heard him, they did not quite comprehend what he was telling them. 
First what were “these things” that Jesus spoke to his disciples?  He had just had a very lengthy conversation with His people. He spoke of many things, but mostly, that there would be trouble ahead.  They would be kicked out of the synagogue, and some would be killed.  He also said that He would be leaving them. They would morn and weep, and they would be scattered. 
Finally He said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.”  Our peace comes from Him, and Him alone, and it is a peace that passes all understanding.  I have felt this peace at some of the darkest times in my life.  It is a peace that washes over you, and calms you when you should be a complete wreck, but you are not, instead, you are able to stand and face whatever comes your way.
Jesus said “In this world you will have tribulation, but take courage.”  I am quoting from the NASB, and some translations use the word “courage”, others use the word “heart”.  So we are to take courage, or take heart.  Whichever word you like, it is preceded by the word “take”, which is an action word.  Courage is a gift, just as peace is a gift from God.  It is there for us to take, but the key is we must take it. 
Jesus goes on to say that, even though there is trouble in the world, He has overcome the world.  This gives us hope, and a reason to take heart. 
I am including lyrics to the song “Take Heart” written by Joel Houston of Hillsong United.  They say so poignantly about all that God has overcome on our behalf when He went to the cross so that we can take heart.
All our troubles and all our tears
God, our hope, He has overcome
All our failure and all our fear
God, our love, He has overcome
All our heartache and all our pain
God, our healer, He has overcome
All our burdens and all our shame
God, our freedom, He has overcome
All our troubles and all our tears
God, our hope, He has overcome
All our failures and all our fear
God, our love, He has overcome
God, our justice, God, our grace
God, our freedom, He has overcome
God, our refuge, God, our strength
God is with us, He has overcome
Hillsong United - Take Heart Lyrics

Thursday, May 21, 2015


This Does Not Define Me


Many of you know that I have grief in my testimony.  Three years ago, I lost my both my husband and my father within days of each other.  Most people who live with grief, at one point or another, wonder if this is what will define them.  I think like most, when I go somewhere, I wonder; do people see me for me, or do they see me as the woman who had that “horrible thing” happen to her?  A lot of the time I feel like that woman. Lost in the darkness of grief, and sadness.  Calling myself by the name of “widow” or “lost” or “grief stricken”, or “stuck”, or even “alone.”


What are you stuck in?  What name do you call yourself?  I think if we are honest with ourselves, we all have names that we call our self,  that if we let them, would define us.  But God is greater than any of these negative things, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we too are more than the trials and seasons that life holds for us. 


I think about Naomi, in the book of Ruth.  She lost her husband, and both of her sons in a foreign land.  When she returned home, all of the ladies were happy to see her, and said, “Is this Naomi who left here so long ago?”  But she told them not to call her by her name, but to call her “Mara” which means “bitter”.  She let bitterness, even for a short time, define her because of her Grief.


All of us have trials and hard times in life that can make us bitter, and define how we see ourselves.  Or we can let God use our times of trials as a time of healing and growth.  It says in Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)


My trials have become battle scars, but that is all that they are, scars.  Scars do not define the person, but they do give the person character. 


Are there wounds that you are holding onto that need to heal?  Are there scars that you have that are defining you instead of giving you character?  Are you still holding on to bitterness in your life that is defining you, when God is calling you by a different name?  Is there something you need to let God work in you to make you whole?Patty Nicholas