I hardly feel like an expert. I am certain that I have let hurting loved ones down in the past. And although it is my heartfelt desire not to, I know I am all too human and will most likely fail others again in the future (and may be letting someone down right at the moment).
However, I have learned a few things through my time of grief, and would love to humbly share a few of those insights with you, knowing that I still have a lot to learn myself.
I think it’s so important that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, reach out to one another, in good times and in hard times alike. We are to be “Christ in the flesh”. We need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” He would love on the hurting and so should we.
Some things you must realize before we start: In my case we are referring to miscarriage, the loss of a baby in the womb. However, this advice could certainly apply to other kinds of hurt as well.
It is interesting to me that Christians often say they believe that life begins at conception (I DO!), and yet when someone has a miscarriage they act as if it is not a real loss. Miscarriage is a real loss! It is the loss of an unborn child that was wanted and loved. It is the loss of hopes and dreams. It hurts. It is okay for the person experiencing this loss to mourn. In fact, it is healthy and normal. Let them grieve and don’t minimize or ignore their grief.
Before approaching any hurting person pray for that person. Then, pray for yourself. Pray for God’s guidance, and for His words to fill your lips…and even for His wisdom to know when to close your mouth (to either listen or avoid hurtful words) when necessary. God filled His believers with His Holy Spirit. Ask Him to minister through you and He will!
So now I am giving you a new commandment.
Love each other. Just as I have loved you,
you should love each other.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that
you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35 (Jesus speaking)
Say something: Acknowledge their loss and their pain. I think often times people say nothing because they don’t know what to say. Don’t get held back by your own lack of words. To me, it was really helpful to hear something like, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m sorry…and I’m here for you…and I love you.” Even after 3 miscarriages I still don’t know what to say myself, and I have no idea how I’m “suppose to” feel. There are no magic words to make the hurt stop and there is no “one size fits all” expression of sympathy.
However, saying nothing is never the right option. Saying nothing makes it seem like you don’t care, even if you do. To the person going through it, it can be all consuming. Don’t ignore it. Be sincere. Don’t say things you don’t mean or can’t follow up with actions. Say you’re sorry. But my heartfelt advice is: don’t stop there because it’s hard for the grieving one to know how to respond to that. Follow it with more words like, “I’m praying for you” or something similar. Often times the hurting one doesn’t care as much about what you say, as they do about the acknowledgement of their hurt. Of course, you should avoid hurtful words at all costs. If you are in doubt, don’t say it.
Certainly, Jesus would say something.
Be willing to listen: Grief is lonely. Even as a Christian, you can feel very alone in your grief. Yes, God is there and you can pour your heart out to Him and that is absolutely amazing. Still, there are times when you feel like you need someone else, someone you can see, touch or even just hear on the phone to talk to. We need others.
Sometimes people get so wrapped up in what they’re going to say or how they’re going to help the hurting person by saying or doing something grand, that they forget to simply take the time to listen. Sometimes the hurting person needs to talk and cry. I know dealing with loss, grief and tears makes some people uncomfortable, but you should remember the golden rule. Ask yourself “What would I want others to do for me, if I were in that situation?” The hurting person simply needs to process through their feelings and various stages of grief. It truly is a process!
If you say, “I’m so sorry” one day, then the next time you see them you don’t even ask how they’re doing, you appear cold and uninterested. Ask questions and be willing to just listen. Not only will the person hurting get to talk, you will also learn more about how to help them and how to pray for them by listening to what they say. Reminder: there are also times when the hurting person does not want to talk, respect that too. Ask again later.
Certainly, Jesus would listen.
Remember to follow up: Don’t just say a few words then forget about them or act as if they should be “over it”. There were just a few people who continued to check up on me beyond the “I’m sorry.” It was nice to hear someone say they were praying for me (us). Yet, I felt like I needed more than a one time prayer or pat on the back. It was those few people who would check up on me from time to time who helped me the most. They showed they really cared. It was obvious to me that they really were praying, and therefore thought of and felt invested in me.
In this modern day of cell phones it is easy to find time to make a call. And most people these days have either e-mail, texting or facebook. Drop them a message to ask something like, “How are you today?” or “I’m thinking of you. How can I pray?” An old school snail mail card or note is nice. A little gift is appreciated. Take a meal to them. Each of these things are a reminder that they haven’t been forgotten.
Certainly, Jesus would remember.
Direct them to the LORD: No matter how much you do or what you say, there will be times when the hurting person will feel alone. That’s why it’s so important to direct them to the One who can help in ways you never can. The One who never fail, who never leaves nor forsakes them, who is the God of all comfort!
Pray. Send them scriptures. Remind them that He is good and can be trusted and loves them more than they can comprehend, etc. Fill them with His Truth! Tell them that He listens and cares 24/7. Don’t neglect to remind them of the hope they have in Him, and Him alone. In the lonely times, those things will come into their minds and will help more than anything else. He is the giver of peace.
I had four different women who prayed with me over the phone. What a blessing! They didn't just say, "I will pray for you", they prayed right then and there, when I needed it the most. As they prayed I felt strengthened...and their words, reflecting on His power and goodness, encouraged me. Pray with them or write out a prayer and send it to them.
Certainly, Jesus would direct them to the Father.
A dear friend of mine gave me a book that was quite helpful as I grieved the loss of our baby. It’s called “The Art of Helping: What to Say and Do When Someone is Hurting” by Lauren Littauer Briggs.
I highly recommend this book to the person wishing to help the hurting AND as a gift to someone who is hurting. It covers various life circumstances like aging parents, chronic illness, loss of job, infertility, etc. Real women shared their insights with the author on what helped them, what didn’t and what they wish others understood. There is a chapter covering miscarriage. It was comforting for me to read this chapter because it was confirming that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. It would, of course, also be a great tool for those who want to minister to the hurting people in their life. As I implied before there is no “one size fits all” manual, but this book could give you a place to start and trigger some good ideas.
It might show you what Jesus would do.
I like the Casting Crowns song “Love them Like Jesus”. Read the words of one of the verses and the chorus:
The gifts lie in wait, in a room painted blue, Little blessing from Heaven would be there soon, Hope fades in the night, blue skies turn to gray, As the little one slips away
You're holding her hand, you're straining for words, You're trying to make sense of it all, They're desperate for hope, darkness clouding their view, They're looking to you
Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him, His yoke is easy, His burden is light, You don't need the answers to all of life's questions, Just know that He loves them and stay by their side, Love them like Jesus
Yes, love them like Jesus!
To the one hurting: Remember to extend grace to the people in your life who don’t seem to “get it”. Remember that sometimes they just don’t know what to say. I know it’s hard, but you can choose to overlook their offenses (Proverbs 19:11). You can choose to love THEM like Jesus too. Run to the One who will never fail you!!
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort
others. When they are troubled, we will be able
to give them the same comfort
God has given us.” II Corinthians 1:4