"In this crazy world, there's an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they're never separated. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the Kingdom of God."~ Henri J. M. Nouwen
These last two weeks we have looked into the questions of “What is grief?” and “How do I deal with my own grief/loss?” If you have not had a chance to read either of these yet, I would encourage you to do so before reading this as it will help establish a better foundation for you.
The question this week is, “How can I support my co-worker/friend during a time of grief/loss?”
What can I do to support?
- Remain courteous, compassionate and available.
- Do not isolate those grieving and allow grief to be openly expressed.
- Be present – put away your phone or any other distraction that might keep you from being 100% present for this person.
- Silence is your friend – Silence in our culture has garndered the term “awkward.” I will tell you some of the greatest times of fellowship and healing have come by just being present in a room with someone.
- Listening non-judgmentally to their story, don’t try to tell yours – It is so tempting to want to tell your own story, hoping that it will make them feel better about theirs…well, it doesn’t. Let the person who is grieving be the storyteller. There may be a time where you can share you story, but for now, just listen deeply.
- Create an open door for them to walk through when they need it, and then don’t continue to ask about it. They will let you know when they want to talk.
Signs that someone may need professional help in dealing with grief:
- Increased use of drugs, alcohol
- Lowered self-esteem, signs of depression
- Feeling of helplessness, guilt, anxiety
- Social isolation
How to best walk with someone through the three stages of grief?
- Be present for them
- Accept their feelings
- Don’t challenge their denial
- Listen Deeply (Think of the song, “You say it best when…”)
- Don’t allow your grief to overtake you or them
- Allow them to make decisions on their own, yet, guard against impulsive decision making
- Remain courteous, compassionate and approachable
- Avoid empty platitudes (Examples: “I know how you feel”, "It’s for the best”, “At least they’re not suffering”, “You should/shouldn’t…”, “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle," “Everything happens for a reason”, “God’s ways are not our ways”…Even some things we say, which are true, just aren't helpful in times of incredible hurt and grief.)
- Be available and listen to their stories
- Keep remarks accepting and empathetic
- Allow them to express feelings openly
- Encourage times of reflection and processing thoughts/feelings
- Continued need for support
- “How can I best support you at this point as you are recovering from your loss?”
“It is a remarkable thing that some of the most optimistic and enthusiastic people you will meet are those who have been through intense suffering.” ~ Warren Wiersbe
It is relatively easy to be a friend to someone, or sit across a cubicle from your co-worker when things are going well. I believe that friendships are truly defined when life is turned up-side-down through grief and loss. I want to encourage you to be the friend you would want someone to be for you if the roles were reversed. Don’t avoid someone because it might be awkward, but engage them with love and you may open the door for an opportunity to make a life-changing impact on someone’s life – just by a simple gesture of love and compassion.
"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 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." ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)