Dear Friends —
If you live in the West Michigan area, you may have heard of the tragic car accident that claimed the life of Jason Alexander as he was heading to work yesterday morning.
Jason, married and the dad to four kids, was hit by a driver who apparently fell asleep at the wheel.
Whereas I don’t know the Alexander family personally, a dear friend reached out and shared with me that Jason’s wife is a good friend of hers. And thanks to Facebook, I see we have a number of mutual connections. My heart is heavy, and I have been praying for Jason’s wife and family all day.
Unfortunately, I remember all too well the devastating day I received a call that my fiance David had been unexpectedly killed in a freak workplace accident.
I vividly remember being driven to David’s visitation, in the midst of raw and intense grief, preparing to stand before David’s casket to greet friends and family. I nervously asked my friend Betty, “How do I do this, Betty? What in the world am I going to say to everyone?”
Betty responded, “Cindy, you don’t have to worry. Right now everyone is wondering what they are going to say to you.”
By God’s grace, I made it through David’s visitation and funeral. Now, having journeyed through “the valley of grief,” I have learned a little bit about what is helpful to say/do in the midst of a loss.
Here are some of my suggestions—
Things to Say
- I am so sorry for your loss of ___________. (This is my all-time favorite, and don’t be afraid to say the person’s name.)
- _______ was such a great________. I will really miss him/her.
- May I give you a hug?
- It’s ok if you do not feel like talking right now. Just know that I am here to listen whenever you are ready.
- Your feelings matter. You matter. I am here for you.
Things NOT to Say
- “I know how you feel.” (This would make me want to scream, “YOU don’t know how I feel, no one knows how bad I feel!”)
- “Time heals all wounds.” (Not true, not true!)
- “You’ll be ok. God knows what He is doing.” (Whereas it is true God does know what He is doing, these words are not often helpful to someone grieving a loss.)
- “Just call me if there is anything I can do.” (Trust me, in the midst of grief, you can’t think straight and you have no idea what you need. The grieving person will not call.)
- He/she is in a better place. (We know that, but it does not bring comfort to a grieving loved one.)
My best advice for helping:
- Pray—often, specifically, passionately.
- Fill the home with Kleenexes.
- Send food (although those grieving probably won’t want to eat it, so simple, healthy options are best).
- Be willing to sit in silence.
- Offer to look through picture albums.
- Take care of practical needs: raking leaves, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn.
- Be available and ready for anything.
- Extend invitations, but also much grace for last minute cancellations.
- Be there.
One precious friend would come over every Thursday night and watch TV with me. Her presence, listening ear and patience was invaluable.
Also, the next year following a loss is extremely painful. If you know someone who is grieving a loss, mark your calendar with their name on the major holidays, and be sure to “check in” on the first Easter, Fathers Day, Christmas, etc.. for at least one full year.
Although everyone is different, my encouragement would be to not be afraid to bring up the deceased person’s name. I still wanted to talk about David in the weeks and months to come, but I could sense others didn’t want to “upset me.” I’ve found many times this is the case when a death takes place. Think of stories to share of how the deceased person impacted you. Keep memories alive.
Since David’s tragic accident, God has used my deep pain for His Kingdom purposes. Often I’m asked, “Cindy, what surprised you most about grief?”
My reply: “That I made it.”
Friends, I didn’t think I had the strength to go on. And I didn’t. But God did. And He sent special women and men and families into my life to walk with me—day by day, minute by minute—as I journeyed to the other side of grief.
Now almost twenty years later, I’m thankful to have participated in the Grief Share series, sharing my pain-filled lessons with others. #onlyGod
GriefShare Expert Cindy Bultema from Church Initiative on Vimeo.
How about for you, friend?
Have your journeyed with someone through grief? Been through the grief process yourself? What was helpful/not helpful for you? I’d love to hear from you.
Let’s learn from one another, so we might be a source of joy, comfort and hope during difficult times.
Also, would you please pray for the Alexander Family? May they sense God’s comfort and peace each and every moment during the hours, days, weeks and years to come.
He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 MSG
In His Great Love,