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10 things to say to a grieving friend

1. “You can only be where you are.”

My counselor said these words over and over to me as I kept feeling like I should have made some kind of peace with my grief, I should have found some kind of purpose in it, or I should feel like I could go a day without a splitting headache. Shoulds can be really loud sometimes, but what wise friends shared with me in the pit of grief was I could only be where I was.  If that meant that day I was angry, that day I would be angry.  If it meant that day I wanted to cry, I would cry.  And if it meant that day I just needed to do something mindless, that was okay too.

2. “You’re going to disappoint people.”

Any experience with true grief is an experience of disappointing those around you. Expectations will go unmet and obligations unfulfilled and while I often carried this guilt, I learned that to truly hold my grief often meant not having space to hold ways I had previously shown up.

In her book Out of Sorts, Sara Bessey states that “We sort our lives on the threshold of grief.”  Something about grief, about seeing the frailty and brevity of life changes us.  It makes us.  Often for a time it sends us searching but it always leads us to new understandings and perspectives, also manifesting in new parts of ourselves.  A friend shared with me that this sorting of ourselves on the threshold of grief is like rearranging your house.  While we are reevaluating and moving around the furniture for its best, practical use, if a friend comes in to sit down on the couch where they have always sat, they will fall to the floor.  Becoming new versions of ourselves means not showing up in ways we always have.  Honest grief will cause you to disappoint people and it is a season, in which, they can only be understanding.  Their season will one day come.

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3. “That makes sense to me.”

No more gracious words graced my ears for the summer months of 2016 than these. When I would share the deep pains of my heart, the big questions that kept me up at night, or the fears I had facing the future, some would try to start statements with “at least” or quote scripture to me, but blessed friends would look at me with love and say the most honoring words “That makes sense to me”.

4. “I love you.”

Simple enough but goes the longest way. Your words won’t fix the hurt, but your continued loving presence will minister so much more than any words ever could.

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5. “I’m so sorry.”

Affirming the hurt and not trying to fix it. Saying you’re sorry to a grieving person makes room for them to sit in their pain in your presence.

 

6. “I’m here for you.”

When you need it and when you’re ready, even if that isn’t right now. I’m here for you leaves room for them to best define how they need you rather than assuming.

7. “Where do you see God right now?”

This one is not for the faint of heart due to the extremely honest nature of the depths of grief. You may be met with “I don’t. I literally can’t even begin to think about him.”  And you may be answered with “everywhere and in it all.”  But making room for them to share and wrestle with their walk with God when you aren’t afraid if their wrestling, anger, or doubt is an incredible way to care for those who are grieving.

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8. “That’s really brave.”

When someone is honest about the questions they are wrestling with or the doubts they have in their theology, rather than answering their questions, sitting with them in the asking and affirming their courage makes you an extremely safe place.

9. “How are you?”

They key to this question is to not stop asking. “How are you?” “What does grief look like for you right now?”  not only the week after a loved one is lost but in the months to come.  Remember the anniversaries and birthdays.

10. “It’s not lost on me.”

This is one of my favorite lines Coach Taylor on Friday Night Lights would say to a hurting player. He would look into a young man’s broken eyes and compassionately share “It’s not lost on me” that you’re hurting, that you’re angry, that you don’t know what’s going on.  Friends who remember your grief and bring awareness in a caring and private way are friends whose ministry is never forgotten.


 

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Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.  I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

5 thoughts on “10 things to say to a grieving friend

  1. Debbie Sobeski says:

    I love you sweet girl! That was beautiful! This is our 12th Christmas without Hannah. We just watched The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks. Hannah loved Nicholas Sparks and had read several of his books. We had some tears tonight. I have often thought I needed to read some of these books that Hannah loved. Jesus use every ounce of our pain and transform it into something that radiates Your glory in a magnificent way. Amen.

    Like

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