Many people really don’t know what to say when dealing with grieving friends, and sometimes they blurt out things that don’t help at all, but actually deepen the sorrowing person’s pain.
“I know how you feel.” No, you don’t! So why say it? “There’s a reason for everything.” That may be true, but neither of you have any idea what that might be. “Well, cheer up. There’s always someone worse off.” This has zero comfort value, and sounds about as callous as you can get. “Don’t worry. Be happy.” – absolutely clueless. We have to give people—even fellow believers—time and room to grieve their loss.
Grieving with those who mourn
The Bible names three friends who came to Job to “sympathise with him and comfort him” – Job 2:11. As it turned out, Job would have been better off if these guys had just stayed home.
These three counsellors apparently travelled a great distance, and when they arrived at Job’s residence and caught sight of their old friend huddled out back on top of an ash heap, they were shocked right down to their sandals. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognised him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to demonstrate their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. And no one said a word, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words (Job 2:12-13).
Believe it or not, that was the perfect thing to do. What Job needed right then was just someone to be with him. These friends started out with the right idea when “no one said a word.”
Learning from their example
When you spend time with someone who is suffering or grieving, don’t feel that you need to necessarily say something “wise and profound,” or try to explain the situation. To begin with, you don’t know enough to explain anything, because that knowledge lies with God alone. And besides that, explanations have never healed a broken heart. Sometimes the best thing to do is just be there. And say absolutely nothing. When someone is hurting, you just need to go to them. If you say, “I don’t know what to say.” Then take your own advice and don’t say anything! If you do say something, keep it simple.
Don’t act like nothing has happened
Most of the time, your words aren’t all that important anyway. By simply showing up—showing love, and a readiness to listen—you are able to bring comfort to these grieving ones. Sometimes, you ask the individual what he or she is facing, and then you just close your mouth and listen with both ears. Many times, simply because they don’t want to be uncomfortable, rejected, or look silly, people keep their distance from those who grieve. Or if they do spend time with that individual, they will steer clear of mentioning the one who died. That’s no comfort at all. The grieving spouse or parent wants that loved one to be remembered. Many times, we will say things don’t help at all, but actually deepen the sorrowing person’s pain.
Look to the Bible for advice
We have to give people—even fellow believers—time and room to grieve their loss. Job’s comforters always get a bad rap, and deservedly so, but just remember something: At least they got it right in the beginning. They wept with their friend, kept their mouths closed, and sat with him on the ground for seven days before they said anything. We think we’re being a martyr if we sit with someone for seven minutes. At least initially, Job’s friends did the right thing. Scripture says to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15.