You don’t have to look far to find pain. Hurting people are everywhere, and wanting to help is natural. Unfortunately, so is not knowing what to do. Many people avoid those who are hurting because they don’t feel qualified to help. Here are five things you can do to encourage someone who is grieving.
Listen without judging—Many people, especially extroverts, vomit emotions when they are grieving. In their search for someone to blame, they may say hurtful and irrational things that they don’t mean, shout, or throw things. Let them act irrationally for a while and forget about it quickly. You don’t need to participate, but you do need to give them permission to purge their pain.
Speak up without explaining—Part of what makes injustice painful is its ability to defy explanation. Attempts to analyze and explain it often sound cold and trite, but silence can be painful too. Romans 12:15 says to mourn with those who mourn, not to explain their pain to them. Break awkward silences with words of affirmation like, “I’m sorry, this isn’t what God wants.” You don’t need to have answers, but you need to have feelings. Use words to show them.
Fill holes—Don’t get hung up on a specific kind of help. Keep your eyes open, and act to meet the needs you see—not the needs you expected to see.
Do the thinking—Open-ended offers of support rarely get claimed because they require a hurting person to generate ideas of how you can help them. Make specific offers. Don’t add additional burden by forcing administrative duties onto someone else’s full plate. Instead of, “Call me if you need anything,” make a specific offer that you’ve already thought through, like, “I can bring dinner by the house tomorrow if you’d like.”
Read, don’t quote—Scripture is encouraging, but not when twisted to fit your situation. Instead of quoting a single verse out of context, read large passages. Crisis often brings long hours of waiting. Fill them with hope by reading Scripture aloud. Since The Faithlife Study Bible is on your phone or tablet, you can always have it with you. Start with a passage like Psalm 91 or a reading plan like “14 Days on Grief.” As Lauren Chandler mentions in this video, Scripture can be very encouraging for the grieving.
You don’t need a counseling certificate or a degree in psychology to encourage a hurting friend, but you should download the FSB app so you’re ready.