Monday, March 27, 2017

Hope for a Grieving Heart
Practical Advice When Speaking to a Person Experiencing a Loss
(Revised March 2017)
“Now you can have your pick of men.” This was said to me within months after losing my husband by a well-meaning person.  We have all been there, someone you know has 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.
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.  Instead say 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 is.  Please go ahead and share scripture, write it down, not just the reference, but write out the passage.  Real comfort comes with time and the grieving person will come across this scripture when they need it most.

 Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV)11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Just being there, to listen and to cry with the person is usually all a grieving person is seeking.  

Send cards.  In the initial days of loosing a loved one, a grieving person will receive cards, however, those cards stop within days after the funeral.  It is a real comfort to receive a card weeks or even  months after the loss.

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.   
For those who are a few years into their grief journey, the rules change a bit.  You do not need to be there at every twist and turn on the road they walk.  As they heal, and begin to live life again, they may not want constant reminders that they are grieving.  Follow their lead, when they need to talk, be there to listen.  For widows especially, check to see if they need any help around the house. 

For all who have lost someone, there may be a daunting task involving taking care of the loved one's personal things.  Be available to help when they are ready to handle this task.
Mostly just be there, and always, pray, pray, pray.   


  1. Patty, I agree with your advice. I know people mean well, but it's tough when someone says something insensitive. I especially like the idea of sending a card a month or two down the road.

    1. Yes, people can say some pretty insensitive things, but in my experience it's been because they truly didn't know what to say.

      Thank you for your kind words.

  2. Good message. I have experienced a loss myself, and I can relate. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Patty, great post! And one everyone needs to read. I've been guilty of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I've also been on the receiving end - wishing that person had just not said anything. Great suggestions on what to say and do - and what NOT to say and do!

    1. Thank you Crickett. I too have said and done the wrong things. Hopefully this will help others avoid some of the mistakes I've made. Feel free to share.

  4. Patty, thank you for sharing this wisdom. I know of three families grieving right now, and some friends have lost loved ones over the past few years. Pray, pray, pray is something I can do privately. I appreciate knowing what kinds of questions to ask. "How are you?" has never seemed the right question.