Good Grief: Tips on encouraging someone walking through grief

*Welcome to those of you who have joined us after reading my Proverbs 31 devotion What to Say or Do (When You Don’t Know What to Say or Do!) I hope you will stay connected with me by subscribing to my blog or following me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook!

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“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (CSB)

Today we are having a conversation about grief and I am also giving away a gift bundle of my book and Bible study, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World to one person who comments on this post.

Grief does not go away quickly. Often people carry the heaviness of grief for years, even decades. We can purpose to show them love and help to lighten their load. And not just one time. But many, many times, in ways both mundane and magical.

We recently experienced this in our own family. My son has a friend who hangs out at our house—and eats lots of our food! He lived mainly with his dad, but his paternal grandmother was also very involved in raising him. When he was in middle school, she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that soon took her life. Whenever he talks about his grandmother, there is still a twinge of sorrow in his voice.

One day as we were discussing his grandmother, this teenager started to talk about her cooking. I asked him what his favorite thing was that she used to make. “That’s easy,” he answered. “Double-meat lasagna and pineapple upside-down cake.” I listened to him describe how delicious these two dishes had been. And then I walked into the other room, and I wrote his answer down in the Notes app on my cell phone.

A few days before he was to move away to attend college, we had this young man and his father over for dinner. I bet you can guess what was on the menu that night. Yup. Double-meat lasagna and pineapple upside-down cake.

When I called everyone to the table and he saw what I had prepared, he choked up. He gave me a big hug and quickly sat down and devoured his dinner. Yes, he had eaten at our table many times before. But this night was magical. After we had eaten, I assured this young man that his grandmother would be so proud of who he had become. And since she wasn’t around anymore to cook his favorite meal for him as a sendoff to college, I decided I would step in and have the honor of doing so.

Use your ordinary life for God's extra-ordinary purpose. Karen Ehman in her newest book Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World

Now let me assure you that I didn’t carry out this quest without a little struggle. It came on a week where I was slammed. I was tempted to just order pizza and have ice cream for dessert, but I knew how much a home-cooked meal like his grandmother used to make would mean to this boy. And the pause and the preparation were good for my soul. They reminded me that relationships require work, that remembering isn’t always easy—and that sometimes sweat is involved in listening and loving.

As we go through life this week, may we be ever aware of those around us who are grieving—for a friend, loved one, marriage, job, or relationship. May we seek to weep with them, reaching down to help carry their load. When we do, we fulfill the law of Christ.

Whose load will you help carry?

I wanted to give you a few tips on what to do to encourage someone walking through grief and also tell you about a great book that is a helpful resource for those who themselves are dealing with a loss.

First, the resource.

I discovered a timely book just after my father passed away last year. A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope through the Psalms of Lament by Christina Fox is part Bible study, part practical guide for dealing with our emotions as we walk through grief. I highly recommend it!

Second, five tips to keep in mind as you interact with someone who is sick at heart:

G—Give them space. Don’t expect them to bounce right back after a few weeks and act like their old selves. The grief process takes lots of time and people will continue to miss a loved one until the day they die. Be consistent in reaching out to them, including them, and showing them love. But do not be offended if they don’t consistently act like their old selves. They need a little space and a lot of time.

R—Remember their loved one out loud. Don’t be afraid to speak of the one who has passed away or their loved one who is suffering from a disease. It usually makes it worse when no one will mention the name of the deceased. When you feel it is appropriate, talk about their loved one, mentioning a happy memory or funny story or one of their character qualities. Keep their memory alive in your conversations. A friend who lost his son in the Iraq war once told me, “Don’t be afraid to speak his name. Speaking his name doesn’t remind me that my son died. I know he died. Speaking his name reminds me that you remember that he lived.”

I—Invite them along. Even though the grieving need space, they still need to know that you want to include them in your activities. Make it a point to invite them out to lunch or to take in a movie or show. Ask them to take in a sporting event or a concert. Don’t be offended if they aren’t up to going. Just keep inviting them so they know you care.

E—Etch important dates on your calendar. Holidays and other special dates are especially hard the first few years—Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s or Father’s Day. Make plans to reach out to the grieving on these difficult occasions. Did your friend lose their son in his senior year of high school? Make sure to send a thoughtful card during graduation time in the spring letting them know you are praying for them. Did your friend lose her husband to a heart attack? Find out what their anniversary was and offer to take your friend out for coffee or lunch. One of my favorite ideas was when my young boys took flowers to a sweet older widow on what would have been her wedding anniversary. We told her that since Grandpa Don was busy in heaven, he had us deliver the love that day.

F—Frame a favorite picture. Print a photo of the person and their loved one who is now gone. It is a simple gift but one that will be appreciated. When my sister-in-law passed away, my friend Mandy purchased a small Christmas ornament that framed a picture of my sister-in-law. Each Christmas when we hang it on the tree, I fondly remember not only my relative but my thoughtful friend.

Listen Love Repeat giveaway at karenehman.com

Giveaway now closed

Congrats bsanderson689, you won! Please check your email for details.

Ok…time for the conversation and the giveaway! One of you who comments will win a copy of my Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World book along with the Bible study teaching DVD and Bible study workbook. U.S. and Canada addresses only please. Winner will be announced Monday, March 16 and notified by email. If we do not receive a response within three days, another winner will be drawn.

To be entered, simply answer this question:

What was the most thoughtful or practical gesture someone took when you were grieving or which of the ideas in this post would you like to try so you can encourage someone in your life who is going through some sort of loss?

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  • We buried my Mother last month. No matter what our age, we are never ready
    to loose “our Mom”.
    We had friends that left food for us. on our front porch; back porch. That was so wonderful as being in process of making arrangements and exhausted from nights at the hospital, there was little or no energy left .
    We, also, received such thoughtful gift catds for “much needdd” coffee and food.
    Thank you for your suggestions to come along side of someone, Karen.

  • When my mom passed away, the best thing that people did for me was to not try “to make it all better” but to let me grieve .

  • When my Mammaw Suzie passed away one of the ladies my hubs had worked with and I didnt know very well, came to my house and gave me a candle and card. No strangers, but mere acquaintances (at the time) was one of those moments that I’ll never forget. Her solidarity will always be etched in my mind. We are good friends now.

  • I just lost my sister-in-law last night (my husband’s sister) . The entire family is heart shattered. I reached out to some of my church family for prayer this afternoon and within an hour my email inbox was filled with Gift Certificates for meal delivery services and prayer-filled letters. I am so overwhelmed by love.

  • I’ve read this book and it has greatly impacted my life. Since reading the book, I try make an effort to learn things about others and remember important things for them. Plus, I try to make extra meatloaf, casseroles, and soups and keep them in the freezer just in case some needs it.

  • Thank you for making it possible to read others post that were submitted . I read them with tears in my eyes and compassion in my heart.

  • A lady I worked with gave me a note upon hearing I lost son in a automobile accident . She said she knew what it was like to lose a son , she lost her son also. She gave me her phone no : and said if I ever need someone to talk too or just lisen to me day or night , to call her. I had never ment or spoken to her before . But her caring ment a lot to me . In some one elses griefing I give them space and time and always be there to lisen . Because death of a love one leaves an empty place inside that will never be filled

  • I was in college when my grandfather died. A friend invited me to everything – to meals, to time spent with her other friends, to her dorm room for some quiet. This meant so much to me, when I needed to be around others.