Updated: Sep 18, 2019
Have you ever wondered what to say to a broken-hearted person who's lost a loved one? We want to speak words that will bring comfort and encouragement. However, often out of a desire to help, we may say something that actually inflicts more pain on our hurting friend. So, what can we say to a devastated, grieving family? How can we help?
Most of us have been on the side of grief when our words seem to fall flat on the floor in a useless heap. Many of us have been on the other side of grief - those times when we desperately need the support of our friends to walk with us in our pain. When our daughter Nicole passed away in an accident in 1998, our friends and family circled around us in comfort and love. Their presence gave us the courage to step into our pain. Even though there were no magical words that took away our sorrow, there are things that they did that brought us great comfort.
Sometimes feelings of inadequateness will tempt us to avoid the grief of others, but you mustn't stay away. Sorrow can lead to a sense of isolation, so it is essential that you are brave enough to show up. After Nicole's accident, ladies from our church and friends from our community showed up. They quietly came bearing gifts from their hearts of food, cards, and bottled water. Often, we didn't even know who had been there, but our needs were met; the kitchen was clean, and our animals were fed. Their actions and care became a salve to our wounded hearts.
Don't worry if you feel like you don't have all the right words. You're right: you don't. There are no words that can completely ease their pain. No platitudes of comfort that will fix their broken hearts. However, a few simple words spoken from your heart to theirs will let them know you care. A few examples might be:
• I don't know the depth of your pain, but I am here if you need anything
• I am so sorry for your loss
• We love you and are praying for you
• Please let me know if I can do anything at all for you
• Say their loved one's name and tell them what they meant to you
The main point is to keep it simple. Cards and notes were especially helpful to me. I didn't usually read them right away, but I cherished them in the weeks to come when the visitors began to thin out, and I felt alone.
Keep Showing Up
Eventually, people have to go back to their own lives and routines, and the grieving person is left to try to find their footing in the "New Normal" of their situation. It is then that the full weight of sorrow can feel crushing. During this time, your hurting friend needs you the most. They may feel forgotten and alone as they watch the rest of the world move on. I was and still am, very blessed to have friends that had the courage to keep showing up in the aftermath of Nicole's accident. Friends that would say her name to us and tell us stories about their time with her and what she meant to them. That let us know she was not forgotten. I still receive phone calls from a few friends on Nicole's birthday and Heaven day to tell me that they are thinking about me and missing her. That does my heart a world of good. It might be a good idea to put a note on your calendar to remind you of those significant days in your hurting friend's life.
Don't underestimate the power of your presence and love without expectations. They may not be able to express their need or even their gratitude, but your presence is what matters.
Every day, the sun would continue to rise. And every day, I awoke and tried to process the events of the past week. Every day precious people would show up to love us and support us. Some loved on us in tangible yet subtle ways, arriving, doing what needed doing, and leaving without me even seeing them or being aware of their visit. Friends, acquaintances, and loved ones would fill the fridge with food and bottled water and clean up messes that needed to be cleaned. Some of our 4-H and horse show friends perceived our need, showing up to feed and water the animals. They then went above and beyond by cleaning the stalls. They didn't know what to say, but they came.
Their courage helped us to be courageous.
Excerpt from Victorious Heart
By Kim Peacock