Dear Dr. B,
A friend of mine just lost a child and I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to say the wrong thing, so instead I don’t say anything. What would you do?
Lost and Silent
I can appreciate that you don’t know what to say and don’t want to say the wrong thing. Unfortunately, for those who are grieving, silence can be misinterpreted as a lack of concern.
I’d encourage you to speak from your heart. Be genuine in whatever you say—it does more damage than good to say you’ll be there whenever they need you or you’ll do whatever they need if they then ask something of you and you decline.
Here are some things you are likely to be feeling that I’d encourage you to share with your friend:
- I love you.
- I’m so very sorry you’re going through this.
- I wish I could take away your pain.
- I’m so sad for you.
- I’m praying for you.
In such a time of loss, few words bring true comfort. Sometimes actions bring more comfort:
- Holding their hand
- Giving an extended hug
- Sitting with them while they cry
- Taking a walk with them
- Praying with them and for them
- Physical deeds such as filling their car with gas, doing their laundry, caring for their other children for short spurts, transporting their other children to or from school, cleaning up the dishes or returning dishes after meals have been brought
Remember that everyone grieves in his/her own way, and there is not a specific time limit on grieving. Grieving doesn’t end with the funeral—that’s often when deeper pain and loneliness set in, as others return to “normal life,” while those who are grieving are left to find an unwanted but “new normal.”
Anniversaries of a death, birthdays, mother’s/father’s day, and other holidays bring up painful reminders. Consider calling them or sending a card on such days so they don’t feel alone or forgotten.
Continue to comfort beyond when you see outward signs that they need it.
Thankfully, we have a Heavenly Father who is well acquainted with our grief.
“He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
What ways have you found to either comfort others or be of comfort to yourself?
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