Intersection of Life and Faith

How to Comfort a Friend Dealing with Loss This Christmas

  • Rhonda Stoppe Speaker and Author
  • 2017 19 Dec
How to Comfort a Friend Dealing with Loss This Christmas

I am missing my momma this time of year. It’s hard to describe the emotions of happy memories knit together with a deep ache to see her just one more time—maybe you can relate? I remind myself to grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but I’m not going to lie, some days are just hard. We have eight grandchildren in our family, and I keep thinking what a kick she would have gotten out of watching these little ones altogether.

Knowing my mother surrendered her heart to Jesus only six months before her passing certainly fills my heart with peace. But just because I have hope, just because I know I will see her again, doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I just need a good cry over losing my momma.

Earlier today I texted my husband, Steve, about my hurting heart. Since he has also lost his mother, I knew he would understand the pain. If you knew my husband, you’d know that his love language is spoken through acts of service. So, his response was typically within his character. Rather than trying to comfort me with words, his reply brought a smile to my face and a sense of relief when he texted back: Two Words - Chocolate Kisses. His response was just what I needed to know he cared. Do you sometimes not know how to respond to a grieving friend? You’re not alone. To help, let’s look at 10 ways to comfort a grieving friend:

Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

  • 1. Think Ahead

    1. Think Ahead

    Last night Steve intuitively put a large bag of chocolate Kisses into the freezer so I’d have them for encouragement. He thought ahead and stashed the kisses for me.

    I was deeply encouraged and blessed that he planned ahead to buy and freeze the chocolates just the way I like them (because it limits my calorie intake as I eat them slower when frozen). My husband’s response reminded me of 2 Corinthians 1:4, "That we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

    If you’ve lost a loved one, you know how valuable it is to be encouraged by one who has walked the path ahead of you. Remember how others comforted you and look for ways to do the same for your friend. If you’ve never lost anyone, ask God for wisdom and compassion to help them.

     

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/justinkendra

  • 1. Think Ahead

    2. Don't Give Speeches

    Steve knew I didn’t need a speech about how I shouldn’t be sad for my mom because she is in heaven. He knows I know that. He didn’t imply my sadness was evidence of a lack of faith on my part, nor did he make me feel guilty for hurting. 

    Sometimes well-meaning Christians unwittingly impose guilt on those who are grieving when they respond with trite “Christian-ese” sayings like, “You should be happy for them because they’re in a better place.”

    Be careful with your words. Proverbs 25:11 reminds us, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” So ask God to give you His words to comfort your grieving friend.

     

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

  • 1. Think Ahead

    3. Weep with Them

    My advice to anyone who tries to encourage a friend is to weep with them–that’s what Jesus did. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha when their brother died (see John 11:35). He didn’t chastise them for crying, even though He knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. I love this insight into Jesus’ character, don’t you?

    Let’s learn from Jesus’ example how to comfort others through seasons of sorrow. Let’s weep with those who weep while gently reminding them “weeping remains for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (see Romans 12:15, Psalm 30:5). Your tears of compassion will do more to uplift a weeping friend than any advice you my try to share in the moment.

     

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

  • 1. Think Ahead

    4. Allow Them to Process Their Feelings

    Allow them the freedom to work through their loss without bombarding them with trite comments that ignore their pain. 

    For example, when my daughters have had miscarriages people have commented, “Well, you can try again” or “At least you have other children.” Or my favorite, “There was probably something wrong with the baby anyway so it’s for the best.” 

    We have a grandchild born with deformities who is the delight of our family. To hear the baby who was lost is better off because it probably wasn’t perfect does nothing to encourage. Those words actually pierce our hearts. But realizing that most people don’t know what to say, and their motivation was to encourage, is what helps us cover with grace their misplaced attempts to help. 

    Rather than trying to offer a reason for a loss, remember that listening quietly will be a balm to a hurting heart. I have been especially uplifted by the gentle understanding of others who’ve walked before me down the path of grief, because they know how to listen. They feel what I feel. When they say they understand, I believe them; however, do be careful when telling your own story of loss not to “one up them” with your pain. Telling them how much worse was your loss will do nothing to uplift them.

     

    Photo credit: Unsplash 

  • 1. Think Ahead

    5. Show Love in a Practical Way

    Pray for them–yes. Cry with them–definitely. And then love them in practical ways. My husband’s love was shown practically through leaving me chocolate. His gesture revealed he sympathized and understood my pain.

    Send a card or text to a grieving friend. Don’t write any advice in the note, just express your love and support as they grieve. You may want to also include a scripture that offers hope.

    Sending food the week of the funeral is kind. But remember once the memorial is over and family has gone, loneliness and reality sets in. This is the time to show love practically. For example, mowing the lawn or cleaning out the rain gutters of a widow will bless her more than you can imagine.

     

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

  • 1. Think Ahead

    6. Remember Their Loved One and Talk about Them

    When people lose a loved one, they want to remember them. People who’ve never lost anyone often mistakenly think bringing up the one who died will somehow cause more sorrow. 

    When the time is right, hearing others share memories, silly stories, and say how much they miss the person who has passed can minister to a grieving soul. 

    Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue…” so weigh your words carefully. Never underestimate the power of weaving scriptures of hope throughout your conversation to encourage an aching heart.

     

    Photo credit: Unsplash

  • 1. Think Ahead

    7. Encourage Them to Express Their Feelings

    Sorrow comes in waves. At first, the loss can make them feel like they’re drowning in a sea of emotions. As time passes they’ll work through the stages of grief. But the ebb and flow of daily life beckons them back to grieve again and again.

    For some, journaling is a healthy way to unmask and process feelings. As an author, I tend to work through my thoughts with writing. I recently wrote an article entitled, A Letter to My Teenaged Mom. Writing the letter was a healing experience for me and has encouraged others who’ve also lost their mom.

    If writing isn’t their thing, ask them to talk with you about how they’re working through their loss. There’s just something about putting words to our grief that seems to help us process it, so be a safe place they can talk through their emotions when they’re ready.

     

    Photo credit: Unsplash 

  • 1. Think Ahead

    8. Ask How You Can Pray

    The fervent prayer of the righteous accomplishes much (James 5:16). Rather than grieving alone, they need friends to uphold them in prayer. Don’t wait for them to ask. Just know they need prayer and regularly remind them they have your support.

    Remember Moses on the mountain interceding for Joshua? When he grew weary, his friends lifted up his arms. In the same way, grief is exhausting, so reaching to others to intercede for them is a practical way help them carry their burden.

    Don’t expect everything to be better in a couple of months. Grief takes time. For each person, that time is different. Implying they should “get over the loss” by a designated period of time will only add to their discouragement. Rather, remind them the process takes however long it takes, and you’re committed to loving them and supporting them in prayer. 

     

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/vadimguzhva

  • 1. Think Ahead

    9. Fight for Joy

    In Christ, we can find joy even in sorrow. Nehemiah 8:10 reminds us, “The joy of the Lord is [our] strength.” But how can one be joyful when sorrow is so near?

    Ask God for wisdom to help you guide your friend to look to Jesus above the raging waves. Over time, with eyes on Christ rather than circumstances (and the Spirit’s help), they can learn to rejoice even in sorrow. 

    Reading biographies of godly people who lived joyfully in spite of painful circumstances can be a great source of inspiration and encouragement (Read the inspiring love story of James and Missy in my new book, Real Life Romance).

     

    Photo credit: Unsplash

  • 1. Think Ahead

    10. Seek Professional Help

    Grief expresses itself in numerous ways. Sometimes, the loss is so deep that one needs a professional to guide them through the dark waters. If you are not a certified counselor, realize that you’re not equipped to help someone who needs professional help. Ask God to help you discern their need, and get advice from your pastor. If your friend’s sorrow is too deep, help them realize there’s no shame in seeing a godly counselor. Looking for help is a sign of maturity. Direct them to a Biblical Counselor near you.

    Help them feel safe to tell you if they’re not ok. Don’t make your friend feel like they need to pretend they’re alright if they’re not. Pretense will only make them feel more alone and isolated. The Enemy loves to get us alone so he can keep us captive. Encourage them to attend church, and then sit with them. Especially for widows who have spent a lifetime seated next to their spouse in church, the loneliness can be unbearable. It is emotional, but grieving within a Christian community is a healthy part of the process.

    While this is not an exhaustive list to help a grieving friend, it is a great place to start. Learning together from Scripture and being with the body is part of God’s plan, so encourage them to join you at church. If they don’t know Christ, share with them the hope of the gospel. Be a good listener and prayer support. And don’t forget to buy them chocolate – lots and lots of chocolate!*

    *This article is an expression of opinions and not professional advice. For professional help please seek a Biblical counselor. Here's a link to Association of Biblical Counselor Network: https://christiancounseling.com/network/find-a-counselor/

     

    Photo credit: @thinkstockWavebreakermediaLtd

    Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. With more than 20 years experience of helping women break free from regrets that hold them back. I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night, is what women say about Rhonda’s enthusiastic, humorous, transparent teaching, and zeal as an evangelist to women. 

    She’s committed to fulfill the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture and easy to read––like you're visiting with a friend over coffee. 

    Rhonda appears on radio programs, speaks at women’s events, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and homeschool conventions. God is using her evangelism conferences to bring women to Christ.

    Rhonda ministers along side Steve, her pastor-husband, at First Baptist Church of Patterson, California.  Together they write books and speak at their No Regrets Marriage Conferences, but their favorite ministry is their family. They have four grown children and eight grandchildren.