Grieving and Growing
This past October, my baby girl went to be with Jesus. She was born at just 22 weeks due to a life-threatening condition that almost took me with her. It was a devastating and shocking loss, one that I am still processing daily. As you can imagine, this heart-wrenching goodbye ushered in a season of grieving in my life unlike any I’ve ever known before.
Learning to carry this new grief has been an incredibly difficult journey, one that I’m thankful I haven’t had to walk alone. To the well-deserved credit of our friends and family, my husband and I have received support in every way imaginable. For weeks our mailbox was continually overflowing with sympathy cards, our refrigerator stayed filled with home-cooked meals, and our phones constantly buzzed with people checking in on us. Having been on the other side of grief, I knew that finding the right words to love and support someone who is grieving could be intimidating, and yet, still they continued to reach out.
As a writer, I’ve always appreciated the power of words. It never ceases to amaze me how even the simplest of words can send our hearts soaring while others can drop us to our knees. Recently, I’ve found that in grief, the power of words is magnified as phrases rub against the open wound of a hurting heart like either sandpaper or soothing balm. While some words are particularly helpful and encouraging, others can be profoundly painful (although often well-intended). Because I know that many remain silent when a friend is grieving for fear that their words will cause more pain, I want to share some of the incredibly simple words that have encouraged me the most in this season.
“I'm so sorry.”
By simply saying “I’m sorry,” you are validating a friend’s pain and reminding her that you care enough to address her grief. This simple phrase lets your friend know that you aren’t afraid of her pain and communicates your willingness to acknowledge it, and allows her the space to talk about it with you if she wants. While you may feel like saying something this simple is inadequate, the truth is, there are no words you can say to take away her pain. Elegant words won’t be able to erase her grief. Once you let go of the expectation to alleviate her pain with your words, it will be much easier to communicate with your grieving friend.
“I’m looking forward to the day you will see your loved one again.”
Heaven is hope for the grieving. Through the promise of a glorious reunion, heaven is the reason why we don’t grieve like the rest of the world. However, in my experience, grief can often limit our vision, leaving us too shortsighted to see past our pain to the eternal glory that waits for us in heaven. By anticipating with your friend about the beautiful reunion to come, you are lending her vision to see hope on the horizon.
“I am praying for you.”
When I was lying in the hospital bed after letting go of my baby girl, I had a hard time finding the words to pray for myself, but I knew I needed prayer. I remember picking up my phone and reading a prayer that a friend had texted me just hours before. She was lifting me up to the Father, asking for peace and comfort on my behalf. I cried as I echoed her words to God, thanking him for providing the words he knew I needed.
There is something so comforting about knowing that a friend is praying for you when you are walking through grief and heartache. While you may have a hard time finding the right words to say to a grieving friend, it’s likely much easier to talk to God on her behalf. Through prayer, you can carry her mat to Jesus (Matt. 9:1-8) and ask God to do what only he can do.
If you’re still speechless
Ultimately, when it comes to words, ours often fall short. Thankfully, we serve a God whose Word never fails. If you find yourself speechless over the grief of a friend, you can always turn to God’s Word. Rather than saying nothing when you feel like words are escaping you, try sending a verse that encouraged you in a difficult season. Your friend will be grateful to know you cared enough to reach out, rather than letting the fear of saying the wrong thing keep you silent in her tragedy. In every circumstance and suffering, God's Word is a balm to our wounds because it offers us his truth and comfort in our time of need.