The holidays are the toughest times for someone who is grieving. If you have a grieving friend, you may want to help but don’t know how. You may be afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. Here are some simple suggestions.
Gifts and cards. After my husband Rick’s death I received countless cards and letters. I treasured them all, especially the ones that included memories about Rick and messages of love and appreciation for him. I saved them all in a box to read again later. A caring note is welcome at any time, even if months have passed. One woman continued to send me encouraging cards for several years.
Time. Instead of saying, “Call me if you need anything,” many people thought of specific ways to help. They offered me the gift of their time. A close friend drove me to all my out-of-town appointments for a few weeks. Another friend came with her husband, a financial advisor, and helped me review my finances. Others dusted furniture, helped get my house ready for winter, and addressed envelopes for thank-you notes.
A listening ear. My best friend allowed me to talk about Rick’s death as much as I needed, even though I often repeated details. She asked questions that made me think, such as “What do you miss the most?” She offered her thoughts and insights, but never pushed me to accept them. She shared her own experiences with me and helped me see that my feelings were normal.
Patience. Don’t assume that your friend is “over it” just because time has passed. Be patient with his or her unpredictable emotions. No two people deal with grief in the same way or on the same timetable. Losing a loved one is not something we ever get over, but the passage of time makes it easier.
For me, the first set of holidays was the worst because they came so quickly after Rick’s death. But the second year was really tough. My cousin, who lost her husband to cancer, told me that for her the third year was the hardest.
Words of comfort. Most of us have struggled to find the right words for a grieving friend. We really want to help, but we’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. The simple words, “I’m so sorry,” and “I care” are always appropriate and can’t be misunderstood. When we say more than that, our “comforting words” may become hurtful platitudes.
“God has a reason for everything.” (Does that mean God planned this terrible event?)
“God knows what He is doing.” (Do you really mean God purposely did this to me?)
“The Bible says God will never give you more than you can bear.” (Did God give me this sorrow as if it were a precious gift? Right now I’m not sure I can bear it.) This statement is not found anywhere in Scripture. It probably comes from a misquoting of 1 Cor. 10:13 which refers to temptation.
Shared grief. Some people avoid talking with grieving friends about the death for fear of making them feel worse. Rest assured that their loss is just about all they can think about anyway. Bringing it up won’t make them feel worse; they might be relieved to know you acknowledge the pain and are willing to talk about it.
I appreciated the people who shared their feelings of sadness after Rick’s death. Some were not afraid to cry with me, and their tears helped me feel less alone.
(My post, Practical Ways to Help (July 8, 2013), may give you more ideas.)
Image courtesy of nipitphand/FreeDigitalPhotos.net