I’ve been with many grieving persons since I became a pastor. I’ve been a grieving person at times, especially when my mother died a few years ago. There are still days when grief over her passing blindsides me and leaves me reeling. The following are guidelines I’ve collected through these various experiences.
Some well-meaning Christians try to comfort a grieving person with verses of Scripture that often do the exact opposite. A favorite passage is Romans 8:28. While this promise is true, hurting people have a very hard time feeling its truth in their situations.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
The key is to be with them not necessarily to talk to him/her. Do not push a grieving person to talk and don’t feel like you need to fill the silence with your words. There are some things that are best communicated in silence.
Allow the grieving person to share whatever he/she is feeling or thinking without passing judgement. Grief can be many emotions – anger, sadness, loneliness, numbness, shock, and more.
Refrain from trying to hurry the process along. It takes a long time to adjust to a new “normal” once a friend or family member passes away. Give your grieving loved one time to mourn and adjust.
Don’t simply say, “Call me if you need something.” The grieving person will not call you. He/she doesn’t want to be a burden. Offer to do something specific. For example, “Could I pick something up at the store for you?” Or, “May I mow your lawn?” You may need to offer two or three ways of helping before he/she agrees to let you do something.
Offer signs of affection like a hug if he/she is open to it. This may feel like you’re walking a tight rope without a net but do your best to read the grieving person’s needs. If you make a mistake, apologize quickly and sincerely.
Offer to read a comforting passage from the Bible and to pray with the grieving person before you leave. He/she may not remember what you read however he/she will remember that you made God’s presence real. Trust God to help you know what to say or do and he will.
What words of advice would you add? What have you seen done well in comforting a grieving person?