Grief and Friendship
In the past couple of years, some of my dearest friends have walked the path of searing grief. Not long ago, I stood next to a friend in the receiving line of her mom’s funeral. Just a couple of months ago I cried on the other end of the phone as a friend relayed to me the news of her second miscarriage. Watching a friend grieve is hard, and knowing how to love her through it is even harder. If you have a friend who has suffered loss, you know the deep desire to shoulder the pain however you can. Unfortunately, many of us just don’t know where to start.
There isn’t one right way to love someone through grief. You won't find magic words you can say, no perfect casserole you can bake, no special bouquet you can send. There’s no step-by-step, one-size-fits-all process you can implement to be a good friend and make her feel better. Grief is different for everyone and the specifics of what your friend needs aren’t the same as what my friend needs. Loving someone through grief is often a trial and error process. It takes openness, vulnerability, and most importantly, willingness to put your friend’s needs above your own comfort.
Because there’s no perfect formula for loving your friend through loss, I can’t tell you exactly what to say and do to be there for her, but I can offer you a few simple tips. These are based on what I’ve learned as I’ve walked the path of grief with some of my closest friends.
I remember being terrified to call my friend a few days after she found out about her mom’s cancer. My heart was racing as the phone started to ring. When she picked up, all I remember saying is, “I’m so, so sorry. I don’t even know what to say.” But the truth is, it didn’t matter what I said. It just mattered that I said something. She didn’t need me to have the right words; she just needed me to be available.
Grief is scary and pain is an uncomfortable topic, so knowing what to say and when to say it can be challenging. We often fear saying the wrong thing and that fear can keep us silent when our friends need us most. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to say the right thing or fix the situation; just say something loving. Keep it simple and honest. Share Scripture and ask basic questions. Leave the door of communication open.
As her mom’s sickness worsened, I was often scared to ask my friend how her mom was doing. I worried my questions would be painful for her to answer. But I also didn’t want her to think I didn’t care enough to ask them. Eventually, I had a candid conversation with my friend and told her to let me know anytime I was asking questions she didn’t want to answer. That conversation was so helpful for us both moving forward! Rather than simply saying nothing, give your friend the opportunity to let you know when she doesn’t want to talk about it. Be faithful to check-in and ask the questions, but leave the rest up to her.
We often don’t know how to act in times of loss because we fear we will be in the way. Unfortunately, that fear can leave us paralyzed when our loved ones really need us. Yes, there are probably others who are showing up for your friend too, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for you. The truth is, while you’re rationalizing that she’s going to be overwhelmed by people and casseroles, so is everyone else. If you show up and have to step back, that’s okay! To your friend who’s hurting, it doesn’t matter what you did, it simply matters that you were there.
Being present is a crucial part of loving your friend through grief. Thankfully, your presence doesn’t have to be physical. When my friend walked through a miscarriage she lived 12 hours from me! As much as I wanted to pick up an extra-large order of cheese fries and head straight to her house, it simply wasn’t possible. Challenge yourself to be creative about how you “show up” for a friend in need. Text her Scripture, order her favorite take-out, or set up a virtual coffee date. Don’t let the excuse of distance keep you from showing up!
Grief is a process. Long after the initial shock of loss, your friend will still be grieving. Don’t quit reaching out to her! Ask questions, comfort her with Scripture, and continue to be available. While many others will move on, she will continue to feel the pain of loss. Unfortunately, this season can be the loneliest part of the grief journey so don’t leave your friend to walk this road alone.
And above all, don’t quit praying for your friend as she continues her journey of grief. You may feel powerless to take away your friend’s pain, but you are able to pray—and sister, prayer is powerful. Don’t take it lightly. Faithfully pray for your friend and diligently lift her hurt up to the One who is near to the brokenhearted. Only He is able to bind up her wounds and offer peace beyond understanding.
Though you may not always know what to say or do for a friend who is grieving, you can always pray. As you love your friend through grief, here are some verses you can share with her or pray over her as you walk alongside her.
Truth to Cling To
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“My flesh in my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26
“Now may the hope of God fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17