I rarely have the right words to say. So I make jokes, or say inappropriate things, or say nothing. I can come across as crass or unfeeling quite often. Not proud of that, just fact.
But it also makes me pretty forgiving of others who don’t get the right words out. I care way more about intent and heart than about the right words, and there are so many times that words are inadequate anyway.
So for those who are sometimes at a loss in the most difficult of times, I thought I’d give some tips. Why now?
Because it’s the start of the season of Joy. But also the season of great loss and sorrow.
Even those celebrating with family and finding joy throughout this season may be missing someone. Or may be facing financial troubles that overshadow all else. Or may be healing from heartbreak. There’s a lot of darkness in homes this time of year.
My 10 tips for helping a hurting friend :
1. Assume everyone is facing something and give them the benefit of the doubt when their words aren’t quite right.
2. When you know they’re missing someone who has passed away or missing, let them talk about their loved one. You don’t have to have the right words, you just have to ask about their traditions or past holidays and listen. Pretending they aren’t gone won’t make it easier for them.
3. Don’t ask if someone needs help. If there’s a reason for you to ask, you probably already know there is a need. They’re probably not going to tell you specifically or even say so. Look around- maybe they need a meal, their yard taken care of, or just a coffee brought to them. Don’t ask, just do.
4. Give something personal and meaningful. Small meaningful gifts that remind them they’re loved mean the most.
5. Don’t offer religious catch phrases. Did you know that it is not biblical that God won’t give you more than you can handle? (Great article about that here).
6. Invite them but don’t push them. Depending on the situation or their place in the cycle of grief, they may not be ready. But they also may just need to be asked and loved.
7. Enjoy your family. No one hurting truly wants those around them to feel the way the do.
8. Don’t remind them that it will get better. It doesn’t help and they probably already know that. But imagining the time when they’ll miss their loved one less only means imagining even more time passing.
9. Encourage. Cards, text, voice mails, all to let them know they’re on your mind.
10. Pray. It works.
With two young kids and the most amazing friends, the holidays are full of joy. But even then there are moments of sadness missing Austin and others. And I know many for whom the grief overshadows the joy.
I hope this starts you thinking about how you can help a friend experiencing that this season.