What Not to Do

When we come in contact with a person who is suffering, do we leave her feeling enCOURAGEd or more wounded? That depends on what we say or do. Below is a list of what to watch for.

  • Avoid clich├ęs. To say, “God must have needed another flower in His garden” reduces our great God to a selfish, needy deity. It is better to tell your friend, “I’m sorry.”
  • Do not turn away, pretending you don’t see someone who is grieving. Avoiding them only adds to his pain and isolation. Say, “How are you? I’ve been thinking of you.”
  • Resist saying, “At least you had those years together” or “At least you don’t have to worry anymore.” Don’t say “at least” to try to minimize someone’s pain. It only insults the griever.
  • Never think it is too late to offer support or that everyone else is helping. Grief is a long process. You may be the one God is calling to encourage a griever after others have moved on to other things.
  • Don’t pressure someone to talk about her loss if she doesn’t want to. Don’t be afraid of listening if she does want to talk. Leave the door open by asking, “How are you?”
  • Don’t try to distract the griever with too much busyness. Don’t clean out articles that belonged to the deceased unless you are asked to. Grief cannot be walked around; it must be walked through. Be there to walk the road with your friend.
  • Don’t quote “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “All things work together for good.” These can sound callous and flippant to someone who simply needs to cry.
  • Don’t limit your support to only the immediate family of the loved one who died. Often extended family members or best friends are reeling from the loss and need comfort, too.
  • Don’t assume marriage relationships are fine. The loss of a child can be particularly stressful to a married couple. Two drowning people cannot save each other. Gently ask your friend how her marriage is holding up. People in pain are too numb to seek help. You may be the one to help a couple seek appropriate counseling.

— PeggySue Wells