Last week, we celebrated the life of my 96-year-old aunt. Although we miss her, her death was the natural outcome of a long life well lived.
At the visitation, many shared stories of their friendship with her and what she meant to them over the years. Those stories delighted and encouraged me. No one said anything thoughtless our spouted platitudes. For that, I am extremely grateful.
Following are some points to remember as you support and comfort those who are grieving:
Allow the Family to Tell the News
Keep in mind the news of a death is the family’s to tell. Often, it takes hours, even days to reach extended family members and friends. Don’t take it upon yourself to contact others. It may feel as if you are helping but allow the family to make contact in their own timing and manner.
Observe Social Media Etiquette
I am always astounded and annoyed by the thoughtlessness of people who post the news of a death on social media without the family’s permission and before the family chooses to share their loss publicly. Yes, you may be upset and concerned, and make others aware so they can pray, but respect the family’s privacy. Think how you would feel if someone announced on social media before you had time to tell your family. Speculating about details or adding your own twist to the situation is unhelpful and callous.
Think Before You Speak
If you can’t think of what to say, don’t opt for cliches. Especially if death is related to a tragic loss, avoid making thoughtless comments that hurt more than they help. Take time to think before blurting the first words that cross your mind.
Stay in Touch
After a death, while the grieving are still processing the loss, people swarm. Later, when grief is real and raw, concern often disappears. But after shock subsides is when support is most needed. Offer to help with a practical activity, like cleaning out closets, or providing a meal.
Prayer is powerful and effective. Your greatest support to the grieving may be your continual prayers on their behalf. Any time God brings them to mind, pray, asking God to comfort, heal, and restore.
Realize Grief is a Process
The grief process is unique to each person. Expecting or encouraging someone to “get over” grief in what you consider an appropriate time frame is heartless. When you are with those who are grieving, allow them to talk about their loved one, even if their loss happened months ago. Listen without interjecting your thoughts and feelings. Eventually, the grieving will find a new normal and regain forward motion. During the process, be a sympathetic, compassionate, available friend.
“When three of Job’s friends heard of all the tragedy that had befallen him, they got in touch with each other and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Then they sat upon the ground with him silently for seven days and nights, no one speaking a word; for they saw that his suffering was too great for words” (Job 2: 11, 13 TLB).
Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including: Inspiration.org, Arisedaily.com, CBN.com, Healthgrades.com, Care.com, Focus on the Family, NextAvenue.org, CountryLiving.com, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).
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