Monday, November 09, 2009

When tragedy strikes those we know or love, we can often feel powerless to help them. What can we possibly say or do to comfort and help those who mourn? The following articles answer some questions on how to help people through the loss of a loved one. They are provided by BASIS, an outreach of Handi*Vangelism.

What is grief?
What can I say and do to help the healing process?
What will hurt the healing process more than help

Grief Can Be . . .

* an overwhelming sense of loss
* like walking through a dark tunnel
* an inability to find your way out of that tunnel
* loneliness, emptiness, and sadness
* a feeling of hopelessness
* letting go
* anger and denial
* asking "Why?"
* losing a major part of yourself
* turning toward God
* turning away from God
* tears and more tears
* normal

Grief can be all of the above and more. It may take all of your energy to grieve for your lost loved one. Every person's grief becomes an individualized journey of feelings, emotions and responses.

In John 11, a story unfolds in the town of Bethany, home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Lazarus became very ill and died. When Jesus arrived, His soul was grieved because His dear friend had died. Jesus wept with Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus was modeling for us that grief is a normal reaction to the loss of someone you love. His tears mingled with the tears of other mourners and He was not ashamed to express His true feelings.

You may find that coping with those same feelings in grief can be overwhelming. Here are some practical suggestions which may help you through your grief journey:

* Don't put a timetable on your grief. Allow yourself the freedom to grieve as
much as you need to for as long as you need.
* Allow the tears to flow.
* Don't make any major decisions during the first year.
* Talk about your loved one.
* Express your true feelings with a trusted friend who is willing to go the
distance with you.
* Set small attainable goals for yourself.
* Plan ahead how you will spend anniversary dates and holidays.

You do not have to travel alone on your grief journey. God provides hope for your suffering. Reflect on the following verses that promote God's hope in the midst of grief:

* Isaiah 43:2: Even through much suffering, God is always with you.
* John 14:27: There is no need to feel alone and afraid because we have God's
* Psalm 23:4: Grieving the death of a loved one can be overwhelming, but God
walks beside us every step of the way.
* 1 Corinthians 15:26: God promises that death is the last enemy to be destroyed.
* 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18: We can experience grief with hope because of the
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we believe in the hope of Jesus
Christ, then heaven becomes a place of wonderful reunions with our loved ones.

Trusting God with your grief can bring both peace and comfort. Jesus, God's Son, experienced grief so He knows what you are going through. May you find rest knowing that God cares for you and desires that you seek Him for hope and comfort.

© 1999 Handi*Vangelism Ministries International

Things That Heal

"I can't begin to understand."

"This verse has been a help to me. Maybe it will be an encouragement to you . . . " (Written down on a notecard and given or sent to the individual would be best. Then he/she can read it when he/she feels up to it.)

"I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how much you hurt."

"I really care about your heartache."


Giving freedom for tears. (They are so therapeutic.)

Giving freedom for anger and questions -- even against and about God.

Giving freedom for talking about the loss. (In the case of a death, the one who experienced the loss often fears that the deceased loved one won't be remembered. Talking about the deceased loved one is very important and very healing.)

Placing no restrictions on the time of the grief process. (The real work involved with grief actually takes place 4-5 months after the loss and may continue for 18 months, depending on the type of loss and the people involved.)

Responding very practically to needs:
bring food, paper goods, other staples to home
clean the house
make home repairs
take car for inspection, tune-up, etc.
food shop
give certificate for dinner out with spouse/friend

Saying nothing rather than saying the wrong things.

Share a picture of or a little story about the deceased loved one with the family. (It helps preserve happy memories.)

Send cards -- always add a personal note.

Send cards on birthdays, anniversaries, any special occasion that will be especially difficult for a hurting person. (Imagine the pain for someone approaching the death date of a loved one. Imagine the pain for someone approaching the anniversary of his/her marriage after a divorce has taken place. Now imagine how much it would mean to know that you are thinking about him/her and praying for him/her on that day. A card or note to the hurting individual would indicate this.)

Remember siblings -- including grown up ones who are not living at home because they also have hurts. Take them out for a special treat. Help the family plan birthday or other special occasion parties so they won't get lost in the shuffle of grief.

Be ready to drop what you are doing when someone needs you. PEOPLE SHOULD ALWAYS COME BEFORE PROJECTS.

Accept the person where he/she is. (Don't expect others to respond to a situation the way you might or the way someone else has, even if the circumstances are similar.)

Do something special for someone; or give something to someone or some organization in honor of the memory of a deceased loved one -- not just at the time of death but months and years later. Let the family know you are doing this. It will really lift their spirits. (i.e. take a basket of food to a needy family in honor of a deceased loved one. Let the family of the deceased one know you are doing this.)

Avoid fixing blame even in your own mind. It's dangerous and pointless.

Organize relief care for a family with a handicapped child. The parents and siblings need opportunities to be relieved of the care of the child from time to time.

Pray for a hurting individual. Drop him/her a note to tell him/her you are praying and what you are praying for. (Be careful not to be pious in this.)

Project yourself into hurting individual's situation --never to say you understand but just to give yourself sensitivity and discernment in speaking and acting. For example:

imagine the pain of being deformed or physically scarred in some way -- think
about how it feels to be ridiculed or shunned or stared at

imagine spending your life in a wheelchair -- think about how special it would
be to have someone sit by you to converse with you

imagine that you have difficulty speaking because of cerebral palsy or a
stuttering problem -- think about how appreciative you would be if people would
give you whatever time you need to express yourself

imagine that you are mildly mentally handicapped -- think about how much you
want to be treated with dignity

imagine that you are divorced -- think about how poor your self-image might be
when you face others

© 1999 Handi*Vangelism Ministries International

Things That Hurt

"It's time to get on with your life." "It's time to snap out of this."

"I know just how you feel." "I understand."

Quoting Romans 8:28. (It's not that we don't believe it -- it's just very difficult for someone grieving to hear it at the wrong time. Make certain you know the context of the verse. It will help you to use it appropriately.)

"Don't you think you've grieved long enough?"

"You blew it!" (Insensitivity at the time of divorce, separation, or even accident.)

Placing blame -- "It's your fault." "You are letting others down."

"If only . . . " (Everybody can be a Monday morning quarterback.)

Prevent individual from asking questions -- being angry with God.

Avoid the individual because you don't know what to say or do.

Offer advice.

"It's never God's will for a Christian to suffer." (What do we do with Christ's suffering which was clearly God's will?)

Giving pat answers. (There usually are none. You can't always explain God's ways so don't try.)

Forcing forgiveness. (It's important to healing but forcing it only complicates things.)

Kick 'em while they're down! (This happens so often in the Christian community when a brother or sister falls.)

See yourself as God's "messenger" or "ambassador" rather than His instrument. (You have to approach a hurting individual with much sensitivity and compassion -- not with an "I have it all together" attitude.)

Interpret sadness/depression as weakness or lack of faith.

"If only you had enough faith . . . " (How much is enough? A grain of mustard seed isn't much. Additionally, God heals because of the faith of others too. See Luke 5:20.)

"If there's anything I can do . . . let me know." (Most grief stricken people don't know what they must do, much less what someone else might do for them.)

"You're young. You'll get over it." "You'll have other children."

Avoid mentioning the deceased one's name.

"At least you have other children."

Change the subject when the deceased is mentioned.

With a miscarriage -- "At least you never really got to know this child. It should hurt less."

© 1999 Handi*Vangelism Ministries International


  1. This posting was a blessing to me. Thank you Vicki. Brenda

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