I recently had the opportunity to talk with my friend, Susan Mead, on “Your Hope-Filled Perspective with Dr. Michelle Bengtson” about how to help a grieving friend. Susan was a mother of two sons when she experienced every mother’s nightmare when her son, Kyle, died.
Susan shared how she moved from grief to grace in her book “Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace”. The death of a child is a tragedy no one is prepared for. I asked Susan to share even more with us here from her experience about how to help a grieving friend so that we can better support grieving parents.
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How to Help a Grieving Friend
By Susan B. Mead
The phone rang or messenger pinged you and your breath is taken away. You just received news that someone near and dear to you has lost a loved one and is grieving.
You want to help yet you don’t know what to say, how to act, what to take, and you truly wonder how do I help. If this describes your first thoughts, this may be a blessing for you – and others facing a similar situation of how to help a grieving friend.
YOUR WORDS MATTER
The most gracious words you can share when a friend is dealing with loss are “I can’t imagine…”
I care. You matter to me. I’m here to listen. You are in my prayers.
Your words can offer your friend such comfort and peace. They will thank you for fewer words with deeper meaning!
REMEMBER THAT YOUR ACTIONS MATTER
Consider what you would want your friends to do for you and do that!
There will be a houseful of people who come to comfort their friend and family member, creating some different needs during the time immediately surrounding the loss.
The most obvious action is to visit your friend who is experiencing a loss.
One precious friend brought a huge bundle of necessities, i.e., toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, paper plates, plastic utensils, disposable cups, and cases of water! This was the best delivery, as I was not stocked for masses of caring visitors.
Reach out to your friend with a phone call to let them know you care. Do not expect a return call if your message goes to voice mail. Be brief.
Consider what may be going on around them without questioning them. I was not able to think clearly, so if asked, I am not sure the best answers were provided. Your friend may also experience a change in their ability to process questions during their time of loss.
Has God put an idea in your head regarding your friend? Simply take your friend what’s on your heart – it will be exactly right.
Is there a special thing associated with their loved one? Find a card with that image on it, i.e., heart, butterflies, dragonflies, cardinals, their favorite sports emblem or team, whatever, to send to them with a note about what you recall about that thing being special to them.
Include your first and last name, return address, phone and email on the card itself. Envelopes get separated. Invariably, that occurs when they need your contact information to send you a thank you note.
Do you cherish your family photographs? So do people who have experienced loss. Send ANY photos you have of their loved one.
If the pictures are digital, put the photos on a jump drive and mail to them. This was the most cherished gift I received as new photographs are no longer an option. Should you find pictures later, SEND them then!
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SPEAK THE NAME OF THEIR LOVED ONE
Hearing their loved one’s name comforts like a cup of hot tea. Please know that it will not “make them sad” to hear the name of someone they love(d) as love never ends. Speak up!
HELP THEM REMEMBER THEIR LOVED ONE
Memories help us recall special moments and the love of the person. If this is your strength, put reminders on your calendar with advance notice to reach out in remembrance at key times.
When you think of them – simply let your friend know you care, whether it’s a phone call, a text, a social media message, a handwritten card or a visit.
USE YOUR NATURAL GIFTS
Caring shows in all you do and say. It is so wonderful when we are able to use our natural gifts to bless someone, so think about something you like to do and simply do it for your friend.
Is praying one of your strengths? Pray for your friend.
Do you like to cook? Stepping into the kitchen may well be the first thing you want to do.
Do you have pictures, video or even old film of their loved one? Make a scrapbook or load a digital photo frame with those sweet reminders of their precious loved one. Should you have old photos or film, consider taking them to a service to have them digitized. Can you imagine what a treasure that would be?!
Are you a storyteller? Tell a story about their sweet, sweet loved one.
Do you like to use your hands to make things neat? Offer to clean their house, mow the lawn, etc.
Are you naturally gifted at organizing things? Offer to help coordinate a meal for the family and friends before or after the service so people have a place to gather.
Give your grieving friend the best gift of all ~ the gift of your time.
A master storyteller and award-winning, bestselling author, Susan B. Mead leaves audiences motivated to live a life free of regrets even though she has done the hardest thing any parent can do – bury her youngest son, Kyle.
Connect with Susan on her website at SusanBMead.com where she writes each Friday about her faith, family, friends, flowers, food or fitness journey, on Facebook and Twitter where she posts inspiration or on Amazon where her award-winning books are available.
Are you looking for a free mini-course to deepen your faith? Text DanceWithJesus (all one word) to 444-999, then reply with your email to receive 6 days of Biblical encouragement.
In Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace, Susan shares her personal story of how God came in the midst of grief and pierced the darkness, leading her to a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him that restored her soul.