What do you say when you don’t know what to say?
- When your neighbor’s husband dies from a heart attack at 32 leaving his wife with four young children.
- When the retired couple at church have all of their financial savings taken in a scam and are left with nothing.
- When the cancer comes back for the third time and the hospital bills continue to pile up at our friends house.
- When the young college grad with a successful job opportunity ahead is unexpectedly killed in a car accident.
What do you say? We want to say something. We want to sound like good Christians and be encouraging. Yet so often our words end up coming out leaving the grieving one feeling hollow and empty.
We hear the grief, the despair, the hopelessness, and pain, and in our anxiety we search our minds for the right words. Then out comes a verse out of context or a platitude that drops like a bomb.
The Bible shares how initially Job’s friends really were helpful in bearing his burden. They came to him and they sat with him. For the first three days they were silent.
Those who are hurting don’t need us to explain away why God allowed this.
- They need someone there with them in the pain– someone to just be fully present.
- They need someone to give them hug, to cry with them, or to just listen without judgment.
- They need someone who will allow them to be wherever they are in the process of pain or grief.
Grief and emotional-pain takes months and sometimes years to work through. Our losses, whatever they maybe, hit each one of us differently. Each step of the process takes a varying amount of time depending on the individual. That is why the spiritual band-aids and Christian platitudes can be so damaging and so hurtful. The things we say may very well be true, but the hearts and minds receiving them may not be at all ready to hear those things.
Sometimes the person enveloped in pain wants to share about what they are going through, whether it be fear or sorrow or even anger. Other times they cannot even form the words, they can’t even begin to think because of their depth of grief. We need to be aware of where they are at, and when we don’t know, just ask. A simple, “Do you want to talk or shall I just sit here with you?”
There just are no easy one-size-fits-all answers. All of our responses need to depend on the individual’s needs.
Our fear of not knowing what to say or do can even make us want to avoid the situation. But that can be hurtful too.
The bottom line is remembering to show love. Isn’t that what we all need all of the time? And we especially need love when we are going through the rough stuff of life.
Next time you are faced with someone near-and-dear to you struggling with what life brings, consider how you can show love and meet them right where they are.
- Maybe that will mean going and sitting with them.
- Possibly sending a caring card will be the right thing to do.
- Maybe sending a note and flowers will show you care.
- It might be that bringing a simple meal will be just what is needed.
- Or maybe the Lord will lead you in a totally different way according to His perfect wisdom.
Whatever path of compassion you choose remember you definitely can help them to feel held in your love and presence by reaching out and being there.