Last year Mission Hills Church hosted more than 30 memorials. Our congregation is filled with people who are grieving. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge to know how to care for those who are hurting. If you search social media, you will find thousands of recipes and ideas. Who knew that “funeral potatoes” are such a popular item? Thankfully, scripture provides great insight into caring for those who are grieving.
Speak Less and Listen More
It is interesting that when people are uncomfortable and don’t know what to say, many of them just keep talking. “Grief is the cost of loving.” “He is out of pain.” “Don’t be sad, he is having the best day ever.” These are a few of the phrases that get thrown at people in the midst of loss. Most of us don’t know how to grieve or how to comfort others. Instead of providing comfort, we can unintentionally inflict additional pain. Many of us don’t know how to leave space for people to lament or wail. It is easier to rush around instead of sitting with the grieving person in silence.
One of the keys to caring for someone who is grieving is to speak less and listen more. Your friend really doesn’t need you to teach them anything. You may want to wait to be invited to share your personal story of loss. Our gift to those who are grieving is often the willingness to listen to their stories. We want to avoid being like Job’s friends who spoke more than they Listened (Job 16:2-3). Sometimes holding a grieving friend while they cry is better than any words you can offer.
Show love in tangible ways
There are so many ways to show your love to a grieving family. If you are a cook, bring a casserole and a dessert in a disposable container. (Don’t burden the family with trying to remember to return your dishes). If you don’t cook bring over paper goods (toilet paper, Kleenex, napkins, plates). They will probably have lots of guests and need to spend their energy on things other than doing dishes. If you are an outdoors type; take care of the lawn, clean the gutters, shovel the snow, or take care of the car. Be sure to repeat your kindness in a couple of months. You will be practicing the religion that Pleases God (James 1:27).
Be patient and persistent
It is important to remember that each person grieves at their own pace. We don’t get to impose our timelines on friends’ grief. We need to be gentle with our grieving friends. We can’t expect a thank you note or judge how they are processing their grief.
Grief can be lonely. You can help by staying in contact. It is okay to say their loved one’s name. You can call and leave messages if they don’t answer. You can write a note. If you are not sure what to say, just write a verse and express your love. Send a text and let them know that you are saving a place for them at church. Be persistent about inviting them to join you but don’t be offended if they aren’t up to it.
Be in prayer
One way you can’t go wrong in caring for a grieving friend is to pray for them. Pray that they experience God as their Comforter (Romans 15:13). Ask the Lord to help them to Rest (Prov 4:8). Pray that God will grant unity within their Family (Philippians 2:1-5). Praise God for loving them and keeping His promise to never leave them or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6, Psalm 119:76).
You might also consider recommending one of the resources below. Please pray for direction and guidance on the timing of recommending them to those who are struggling with loss. No book will have all the answers, but God can use them to bring healing and comfort in His timing.
For mature believers:
For those who want to know about Heaven:
For the loss of an infant:
For the loss of a young child:
Credit :: Lillian Dehn
🎨 Credit :: Colin McFarland
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