Just this morning I saw a FB article written by a recently widowed acquaintance. She lost her husband to cancer within this last month and has suddenly found herself on the grief road. Her grief is very real and consuming. Her days feel foggy and all out-of-sorts. She is struggling with new feelings, thoughts, and heartbreaks.
I know from my own experience that grief can suck the wind from your lungs. Grief paralyzes you. Grief makes everything 10x’s harder to do. Grief robs you of sleep. Grief steals much joy and happiness from your everyday life. Grief is just.so.very.hard!
The Lord brought to my heart and mind a few ideas for ways to extend love and grace to a grieving heart. Perhaps you know someone right now who is walking along the grief road. It may be your spouse, your child, another relative, a church member, or friend who needs your love and encouragement to press on and keep walking on this incredible challenging journey!
I pray these ideas will encourage you to reach out today in love and grace to someone needy in your life–
1. Don’t avoid a grieving person. . . give a smile and light touch or hug. (Words are not always needed.) I can remember going to church after my mom died and being very aware of those who avoided me and those who tenderly approached me. I was always so encouraged when someone would just smile softly at me, touch my arm tenderly or give me a sweet hug. I knew I was loved and cared for without any words being spoken.
2. Show love in tangible ways. Be willing to go one step beyond the smile and hug. Send flowers or leave them on the front porch. Buy groceries and deliver them. (Don’t ask what they need but just show up with bags of staple goods and fun snacks.) Babysit for them. Do laundry for them. Bring a meal. Send gift cards. (Gift cards were such a blessing to me personally. . . I had no energy for preparing meals.)
3. Send a thoughtful card. . . but wait a few weeks out from the initial loss. I was very appreciative of all the cards sent my way. Honestly though, I was unable to read most of them sent in the first few weeks because the pain was so great and my heart was in shock. Each time I saw the stack of sympathy cards was another reminder of my tragic loss. Perhaps due to my traumatic and sudden loss, I most appreciated the cards sent several weeks to months after my loss. I was just better able to receive them when the initial shock and numbness was gone. Hand-written cards do speak volumes of love though!
4. Don’t try to give advice. . . just listen. Grieving people really just want to feel understood and loved. I wanted to be able to talk about my grief with friends and family members without being told “what I needed to do next.” Only those closest to the grieving person are truly able to speak into the grief without offending.
5. Don’t force a healing time. Everyone heals from grief on a different time table. We each grieve and process differently. Please don’t ever tell someone or imply that he/she should “move on”. . . when it has been only a few months (even years) from the loss. I do acknowledge that some people become “stuck” in their grief and need encouragement to get professional help.
6. Encourage griefshare counseling. Within the appropriate opportunity and relationship, recommend the value of griefshare counseling. About 8 months after losing my mom, my husband and I began the 13 week program of Griefshare at a local community church. Without a doubt, God used this grief program to bring much healing into my broken heart. Being in community with other grieving people and being able to have open discussions about my grief was very helpful!
7. Give special gifts of remembrance. Each year on the anniversary of my mom’s death, one of my friends has given me a special bouquet of flowers. My mom was an avid gardener and could work magic with flowers! Knowing how much I also love flowers, these special bouquets given in honor and remembrance of my mom bring much joy to my heart on these heavy days. One of my most favorite gifts is a Christmas ornament with a picture of my mom and me. A friend sent this to me in the mail during the first Christmas season I spent without mom. Each year as I decorate my Christmas tree, I tend to linger and remember as I hang up this special treasure.
8. Give much grace to your grieving friend or relative. Hold no expectations for them in your life. Grief tends to color most everything for quite a while. We act differently in our grief from our normal ways. It’s not that we intend to hurt, push away from, react quickly. . . it’s just that our brains are dealing with alot of change and our hearts are broken. Please try not to take anything personally from a grieving person in the way they may respond or not respond to you. Love them unconditionally. Extend much grace in their grief. Acknowledge that grief changes a person–don’t expect them to be the same. It just takes time to find a “new normal.”
9. Recognize that traumatic and sudden loss often affects differently than other types of losses. I did not realize for some time that I suffered from PTSD after losing my mom. My mom’s death was sudden, traumatic, and intentional. For months after losing my mom, I found it extremely hard to watch the news, to view tv shows with any amount of trauma, and hear stories of other traumatic deaths. Counseling was very therapeutic and healing for me in dealing with the trauma part of mom’s death. I encourage you to be very sensitive to any loss but particularly one that is associated with trauma.
10. Encourage the family of a grieving person. I am so grateful for those people who personally invested in loving my family well during our loss of mom. It meant so much to me for others to spend time with my children, send personal gifts to them, call or text my husband with thoughtful words, and invite our family to dinner.
11. Give gifts of grace. . .such as meaningful cd’s, books, and picture frames. I could add so many other gifts of grace that meant the world to me, but each time I would listen to an encouraging CD, read a meaningful book, or look at the sweet pics I put into special frames, I would be reminded of God’s grace to me. These gifts that pointed my heart to His truth were so valuable.
12. Allow and welcome tears in your presence. Grieving people cry. Or at least they should. Tears are such a precious gift from the Lord. Again, grieving people want to feel safe with you and loved. Being allowed to cry with a friend is a precious gift.
13. Speak words of truth. Many times in grief, it’s very difficult to believe truth. . .because you don’t “feel” it. Offer words of Scripture to your grieving friend. Grieving people need to be reminded of His truth.
14. Don’t say “trite” things. Simply acknowledge the hurt, listen to them, and give them truth from Scripture that is in context. It’s better to say little and listen a whole lot!
15. Offer to visit the graveside with them or sort through their loved one’s belongings. A few weeks after my mom met the Lord, I had returned to mom and dad’s rental home in GA to pack up their belongings. I’ll never forget how much it meant to me that mom’s friend Karen spent hours helping me go through mom’s closet and other rooms. She was so complimentary of my mom’s classy style in wardrobe and shoes. Her willingness to serve me during a very difficult time meant the world to me. It made my job a little bit easier because I wasn’t alone. (Karen is now my dad’s wife and such a dear lady to me. I have so much respect and love for her because of her love to me in such a tragic time.)
16. Pray regularly for your grieving friend. I am forever grateful for those people who have prayed for me and my family in these past 4 1/2 years. God does hear and delight in the prayers of His people. He moves and acts when people pray. I know that my healing is due in a large part to the prayers of others on my behalf. Don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer.
16. Regularly encourage. Send a text. Mail a card. Take out to lunch. Mow the grass. Trim the hedges. Buy a few bags of groceries. Give a hug and a smile. Sit with them in church. Keep reaching out in love to those hurting in grief.
17. Know that one day the grief cloud will lift. The sun will shine once again! So wait patiently and never stop loving and caring. And I believe the truth is this. . . your grieving spouse, friend, relative, or co-worker will be a different but better person. I am not the same since losing mom. . .but I’m beginning to like the “new me.” I am more compassionate, I am more dependent on Christ, I am more aware of my weaknesses, I am more patient with others, I am so grateful for each whisper of grace He gives to me, and I treasure each day that God gives me.
May these little thoughts of mine be a blessing to you today! To all of you who continue to pray and encourage my own heart, may I say a big “THANK YOU”. You are very loved.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10 ESV
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. I Thessalonians 5:14 ESV