How to Help a Grieving Friend
Having been through grief so recently (or rather still in it), I have the hindsight of knowing what was helpful and what was not. As we begin anew this journey of sorrow and sadness, I thought it would be helpful to share a few things that Jake and I have learned from our experiences in grief.
Before I share those things, I do want to say that I believe each of our friends and family, and even strangers in Christ, have well-meaning hearts and just want to help when they offer advice, stories, or verses to us. In response, I have an opportunity to extend grace to those who say the “wrong” thing, just like I want grace from others when I say something “wrong.” We are grateful that so many people are close to us through prayers and encouraging words, and we appreciate your hearts in wanting to help us in this time of great loss.
The question we are asked most often is, “What can I (or we do) for you? How can we help you?”
To put it plainly, you can’t do anything. Really, you can’t do anything that will take away the immensity of our pain and sorrow in the loss of our children. Only God can bring back our babies and give us that joy. So, I would encourage you to be okay with your helplessness. We don’t expect anyone to arrive at our doorstep and make everything better.
So what can be done to help?
- You can help by praying for us fervently for an easy labor and delivery process. That God would be gracious to me in those moments and spare me pain upon pain by allowing our baby to come quickly and with ease. You can sit with us after this is over and just listen. You can cry with us or for us. Tears were such a gift when Molly died, and I know they will be a gift this time, as well. You can pray specific Scripture for us. All these things are good and helpful. Prayer might feel powerless to you, but we feel the blessing of those prayers. They are incredibly powerful.
- Engage us in our pain. Ask us how we’re feeling about losing a second child. If you’ve never lost a child before, ask us about it. We love to talk about our children, and it makes our hearts glad when others ask about our kids.
- I wrote in a post a few months back about the Hebrew custom “sitting shiva.” It means to sit with those who are mourning and just be with them. Don’t feel pressured to fix our pain, just be. Listen if we want to talk. Offer advice if we ask for it. Let us cry if we want to. Give us space if we need it. Just be with us. And if the silence is too much, then pray for us as we sit quietly.
What should you not do or say?
- In order to protect our hearts and minds, please do not share stories upon stories of others who have gone through hurt and pain. This world is full of sad stories like ours and even stories that would be so much harder than what we are going through. And while we are saddened by those stories, they are not helpful right now or anytime soon. It feels as if our pain should be less because of how hard it was for so and so. So please help protect our hearts by not sharing about someone else’s loss.
There are some who’ve had personal experience in this area and who have shared bits of advice for our journey. That is helpful and wanted. Please do not feel as if I do not want to connect with other moms in this unwanted club.
- Another thing that I have found difficult is trying to distract myself with empty things, such as shopping, playing board games, hiking, laughing with friends, and even baking which I love. Things that were once enjoyed now feel trite and empty. The best thing to do is think about what you are asking us to do and when before you ask it. While Jacob might thrive in certain activities, I might not. It’s best to think it through first. What is helpful to you in times of sadness might not be helpful to me.
- While we encourage you to pray specific Scriptures for us, please do not try to teach us or instruct us about how good God is and how He works all things for the good. Neither of us are going to lose our faith over this. We know all of those verses and believe them still. But sometimes verses can be spoken as if they were a magic wand. God will heal us in time, but it won’t be overnight and it won’t happen through a verse or two.
Thank you for sharing our grief with us as we walk this road once again. We desire to be more like Christ through our pain and sorrow. We want God to do good things as a result of Molly and our second baby’s death. We are so grateful for the body of Christ as you have brilliantly rallied around us a second time. We feel the prayers of so many, and we know that we are not alone.
Resources for Coping with Grief