Tuesday morning, a nine-year-old boy from my church passed away. He’d been battling liver cancer for the last three years.
It’s so hard to process, honestly. I can’t begin to imagine what the family is going through right now.
Hopefully you’re not, but maybe you’re in a situation where you’re grieving or trying to figure out how to help people who are.
Here are 3 tips on what to do and what not to do.
1. Sometimes, it’s better to say NOTHING
Words can be powerful and encouraging, but sometimes they can do more harm than good. Saying “I know how you feel” or “He’s an angel now” doesn’t help the grieving family.
I’ve never lost a child. I’ve never had a child, for that matter. There’s no way I could begin to understand what this poor family at my church is going through.
Now, I did lose my grandma and when one of my closest friends lost her grandma, I did have an idea of how she felt. In that situation, I just let her know I was there if she ever wanted to talk. I could understand where she was coming from, but every case is so different that there was no way I knew exactly how she felt.
It’s okay if you don’t know what to say to a grieving family. Just be there for them. Cry with them. Take time to listen. Your presence means a lot.
2. Realize Everyone Grieves Differently
Some people want to be around others while they grieve. Others want to be alone. Some want to talk about it right away. Others don’t.
There are also 5 recognized stages of grief. I found this fascinating YouTube video about Avengers Endgame and the five stages of grief, if you’d like to check it out.
As weird as it sounds, I still haven’t seen Avengers Endgame. I’m waiting for it to be released digitally – so hopefully by next month?!
In the video, Ben explains how the five stages of grief don’t necessarily happen in that order and some people may skip over stages or get stuck in one for a long time.
My primary way of coping with grief from my grandma’s death and now this little boy’s death has been denial. I know it’s not the best way, but I’m still in that stage. I’ve also had plenty of anger and depression.
Maybe acceptance will come some day, but it just hasn’t yet.
So if you’re in a situation where a friend or loved one is grieving, try to pick up on their emotions. Are they in a talking mood? Do they want to be alone? Are they depressed? Understanding where they are right now is a good indicator of how to console them.
Trying to get someone in the denial stage to “accept” the death isn’t the best idea. Or trying to get someone to talk about it, when they’re obviously not ready.
3. Be There
After losing a loved one, life never goes back to “normal”. The family slowly develops a new routine, but things never go back to the way they were.
As a friend or family member of someone grieving, the best thing to do is ride the waves with them. My grandma had a really close friend named Shirley. She’s been super close to our whole family. Since my grandma died, she’s really been there for my mom. On Mother’s Day, my mom went to her house for a little bit.
You can never take the place of someone who’s died, but your friends may need you to take a different role.
I’m so thankful for the way Shirley’s been there for my mom.
Shirley recently lost both of her sons to health issues. One of her daughters lives super far away and the other one is nearby, but trapped in a horrible situation. So my mom’s also been there for Shirley, which has been wonderful for both of them.
Even just letting someone know that you’re there for them is helpful.
I’m sorry I don’t have super specific “do this” ideas. Every situation truly is different. I guess my last piece of advice would be to be sensitive. If something you’re thinking of saying or doing could be perceived the wrong way, just don’t do it.
I’ve heard a few people at my church talk to this grieving family or indirectly say something like, “Maybe God took your son to spare him from a life of trouble down the road. He could’ve been a murderer or in prison…”
That INFURIATED me when I heard people say that. Who in their right mind thinks the family wants to hear that?
The truth is, we don’t know what God’s plans are. Maybe God is sparing this boy from something that could’ve happened later, but that’s not for us to know.
While it’s true that God has a plan for everything and that there is something good that can come from the bad, some comments just don’t need to be made.
The best thing to do is give grieving families time to process their loss in their own way. While Christians have the hope of seeing their loved one in heaven again, that doesn’t make the time here on earth any easier.
What tips do you have for comforting a grieving family?
Feel free to comment below.
Thanks for reading!
~ RaeAnn Jent