When seeking to help people who have experienced a family death or the death of a close friend, we often do not know the best way to respond or become nervous or apprehensive about being able to respond. My goal with this brief blog is to help provide a framework for being the presence of Christ to those wrestling with grief.
The very first thing that we should do as Christians is validate the grief that the other person is experiencing. They are dealing with the feelings of loss and grief and mourning and sadness all for very valid and legitimate reasons. In many cases they have just experienced a devastating heart break. Those feelings need to be validated. It is fitting and right for them to feel any of those emotions if it does not lead to harming themselves or someone else.
One of the worst things that anyone can do to someone grieving is invalidate their feelings. Many times, Christians do this without knowing or understanding what they are doing. These invalidations often come in the form of colloquialisms like, “God just needed another angel in heaven,” or “It was just God‘s plan.” Death may very well be a part of God’s larger plan; however, the acute time of grieving is not the appropriate time to remind a person of God’s greater plan.
Instead, it is a time. just to be with the person. Which brings me to my second point. If you do not know what to say to a grieving person, it is often better to say nothing at all than to inadvertently say something harmful. Just simply be with the person. Some suggestions as to what to say if you are nervous are, “I’m glad to see you,” or “I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now but I’m here for you.” Also please avoid comparisons like, “I know what it was like when my (Mom/Bother/Uncle) died.” Just because you know what it was like for you does not mean that you know what it is like for the other person. So just simply be still and listen, and most often they will share as they are comfortable in doing so.
Which brings me to my final point in trying to help us all deal with grief more appropriately. Listen without needing to fix. The person’s loved one has just died and there is absolutely nothing that you can do to fix the problem. Simply be present, and in so doing . . . be the Presence of Christ.