by Word of Life Bible Institute student Lindsey Shumaker
A little over a year.
That’s how long it’s been since my life forever changed. I never knew how I would handle grief, but let’s be honest, no one ever really knows until it happens.
In the midst of all the heartache and tears, I still can find joy and rest in the promises from my Heavenly Father. Yet after losing a loved one, many people have a difficult time knowing how to relate and understand the feelings, emotions, and thoughts of someone grieving. Coming from someone who has recently gone through this, here are a few pointers on how to encourage someone who is grieving.
Be specific about how you can help
“Let me know if you need anything!”I tend to hear this a lot; I mean even I say this to people. This saying is usually taken so lightly. Every time someone told me this at my father’s funeral, I thought to myself yeah, bring my dad back? I know they were just trying to help and to console me, but it’s not exactly what I wanted to hear at the time. So instead of saying that, just let the person know that you’re here to help in any way you’re able, and actually take action to do it!
Be a listener
Instead of trying to give advice on how to fix it, and attempting to put yourself in their shoes, let them pour out their thoughts to you. It’s comforting to know that someone wants to listen, you may not be capable of understanding. However, you are capable of being the ear they need to vent to. You may not have the right words to say, but let them know that you care for them.
Pray with them
“I’m praying for you.” Christians tend to say this without remembering actually to pray. One of the most heart-warming things that someone did for me was asking, “Can I pray for you right now?” Even just simply saying, “You’ve been on my heart lately, how can I be praying for you?” Pray for the person right at that moment.
Realize that there are good days and bad days
Everyone has these. Sometimes I will be in the middle of having a good day, and all of a sudden I’ll get emotional over something that reminds me of my dad. Dealing with a death in the family involves a lot of changes and adjustments, causing your emotions to go all over the place. Be patient with the person. Know that sometimes they might just need to be alone, and other times they might want to go out and do something to get their mind off things.
Encourage using Scripture
Try writing the person a letter or card. With this, they can always go back and read your encouraging words in their own time, in case they aren’t in the mood to talk in person. Here are a few passages that are good to meditate on in times of heartache:
John 16:22 “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
This verse reminds us that yes, we will experience tough times now, but we can cling to the joy that God gives because one day we will be reunited with Him and our loved ones!
Revelation 21:4 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In Heaven, there will be no more pain, sickness, and most importantly death. Jesus said he will wipe away every tear! What an amazing promise to put your hope in!
Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Even in dealing with a loss, God can provide the most indescribable peace in our hearts. I was able to have this peace, knowing my father is now in Heaven, cancer-free, and that I will be able to see him again.
Be faithful to follow up
It’s only been a year since my dad passed away, but it’s been a year of growing, experiencing life as a teenager without a father, and going through first holidays and birthdays without him. This first year has involved making tons of changes and trying to fill the gap that my dad has left. I truly believe that it hasn’t been until the beginning of this second year when the grieving kicked in, and when I’ve fully felt the loss of him in my life. This is why I think it’s important to remember to check up on those grieving, even after a few months or years pass by.
I hope that these few suggestions can help you encourage someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. I urge you to commit to praying for them regularly and to remember to check up on them. They are going through many different emotions, and will need a caring friend during these times!