Sometimes life is hard.
Sometimes we experience things that have us bouncing off of the walls because we’re so joyful and other times we’re in deep mourning because of the great pain we’re experiencing. In the past couple of months, I can say that I’ve experienced both of these emotions in different ways. I’ve felt joyful because my brother got married this year. I’ve felt thrilled to finally be announced as my husband’s wife and to be able to start a life together rather in two different states and also gained some new family members. Yet there’s also been news of death and failed plans where we spent quite a bit of time mourning.
While I’m sure we all have our particular ways we prefer to grieve, it can be hard when someone close to you is going through a rough time. You may feel helpless because it seems that there’s nothing you can say or do to encourage them during this time.
What do you say when someone close to you has lost a loved one?
What do you say to someone close to you when they’ve been violated or lost a job?
What do you say to someone when they’ve experienced a breakup and are feeling the weight of both longing and grief?
Here are some tips that I’d like to share with you all who are looking for ways to love and support a loved one who is experiencing a rough time.
What they’re experiencing may seem trivial or unimportant to you, but it may mean a lot of pain for them. For example, someone losing a particular item may not mean much to you, but that item may have a lot of meaning for them. Maybe they had a really bad week and losing this charm bracelet that was given to them by a deceased relative was something that was the icing on the cake for them.
While our intent may be to remind them that “things could be worse,” you’re actually making things worse by pacifying what they’re experiencing. We were all created uniquely – that includes our emotional threshold levels. If you really feel that what they’re upset over is something that’s small in comparison to other things going on in the world, why not pray for them?
As a believer, I believe one of the best things you can do for someone is pray and I believe in the power of it. However, I know for myself that when I am going through a challenging time, it can be hard to find the words and the strength to say. In fact, when this happens most of my prayers are confessions of my own inability to articulate what I really want to say.
We have the ability to access and speak with God any time we want and anywhere we want. What better way to encourage someone who is experiencing a difficult time than to intercede for them in prayer?
DON’T Compare Timelines:
While I know you might be tempted to do so, you cannot compare you grieving process with theirs. It may take someone years to get over something it took you a month to get over. This does not mean they are being dramatic or holding onto things too long. People grieve differently and at different speeds, so it’s impossible even for the one who is experiencing the difficult time to anticipate how long it’s going to take them. We should seek to walk alongside them through their grief instead of rushing them through the process because we’re unsure of how to handle it.
DO Give them space to mourn:
I remember attending a trauma training one year for work and feeling so relieved when they articulated the importance of giving people space and time to mourn. I think sometimes we’re so quick to want to rush people through the process because we don’t like seeing our loved ones sad that we give off the impression that we’re tired of hearing about it. It may not be intentional, but that’s the vibe it can easily give off when we’re so quick to throw inspirational verbatim down their throats for the sake of making them feel good.
One thing I’m reminded of is what the bible says about there being a time for everything. I believe that also includes mourning.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV – emphasis added)
That time isn’t specified in the bible, however. It doesn’t say, “there’s a time for mourning and that’s about three days max” or “there’s a time to weep for about 6 days.” It may take someone years to get over a death in the family or months to get over a breakup and I love that the Word acknowledges that and doesn’t specify a time frame. Therefore as believers, we shouldn’t either.
DO NOT Discourage:
In lieu of what was previously mentioned, you do not want to tell them to “get over it.” EVER. I cannot stress this enough. Not only is it discouraging, pacifying, and minimizing, but it’s also pretty of mean. I know the intention of these words might be to encourage your loved one to grab life by the “bullhorns” as society often tells us to do, but it comes off as you being sick of hearing them talk about it. It also comes off as you unintentionally minimizing their experience.
Send them a text letting them knowing that you’re thinking of and praying for them. I know I try to do this, but I honestly have not been the best at doing all of this time – especially the last month or so. If God has placed someone on your heart to pray for, why not send them an email or a text message letting them know that you’re praying for them or checking in to see how they’re doing.
Another way to encourage a loved one going through a rough time is to do little things for them. Someone’s grieving a death in the family? Offer to make meals for them. Depending on your relationship with them, perhaps you can leave little encouraging notes around the house ( a roommate or spouse) or surprising them with something that would normally make them smile.
What are some things that would make you feel supported when going through a difficult time? How do you typically support loved ones who are experiencing great sorrow?