Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to help someone who is hurting...

As a grieving mom I have been researching and researching about "How to help a grieving parent." When you lose someone you automatically become part of "the club." It is a club you do not want to be a member of. For example, we are a member of the "My child has died" club. As a result of this, people have begun to approach me who have lost loved ones because they know I can relate to their deep agonizing pain. Even though I can relate it is hard to find the words to say in each different situation. I have found a few things I really enjoyed reading and I have found things that have happened to me that made me so hurt. So...I thought I would share with you all how to help someone who is grieving.

Maybe you know someone whose mom or dad has died, whose child has died, whose spouse has died, whose sibling has died, who has gotten a divorce, who has went through bankruptcy, etc. Obviously some things are worse than other things to experience, but each scenario can cause serious grief.

When you are thrown into the dark world of grieving people like to put a "timeline" on your grief. I am here to strongly tell you...THERE IS NO TIMELINE FOR A PERSON GRIEVING. Do not expect a person to be "over it" or "better" in a month, in six months, in a year, or ever in some cases. So if you are truly caring about a person experiencing trauma in their lives do not "expect" them to be over it in a certain amount of time. Some things just can't be put on a timeline...

Keep your words simple. For example...try not to say things like "His time was up." "He is better off now." "Time will heal all your pain" Actually...the person grieving thinks their loved one would have been better off living a lifetime of wonderful with them and they probably have the feeling that time will never HEAL their pain. It might ease up on some days, but it will never be gone.

What to say to someone who is heartbroken..."I'm sorry." "I've been thinking about you." or my personal favorite is "You know what I loved about Ian..." Don't try to explain reasons why you are sorry when someone has lost their parents or child or sibling. Just simply say "I'm sorry." Also, don't try to forget about their loved one who has died. Talk about the person and tell the family what you loved about their loved one. You can sit with them and just hug them or pat their leg. Just be there for them and don't make it about you. Don't say..."I understand you know. My cat died last week and it's just so hard to live without her." I mean really...there is no comparison there! However...people do this!!!

When a person is grieving the loss of a child I know the emotions are out of control. I am sure it is the same way when you lose a parent or another close family member. However, I don't have experience in that area. Thank you Jesus! My emotions drain me on certain days and I have no energy to worry about mundane things in life. I know I do things that seem outrageous to others in my process of grieving but those outrageous events are what I want I to do right now. No explanations available for some emotions I have...they are just there. As the support system of someone grieving this is the time you are supposed to support the grieving person. This is not the time for you to judge them or become angry with them, but it is the time for you to stand by them and love them like you always have. This may be one of the most difficult tasks for the support system involved with the grieving person. To have this support from people shows unconditional love.

Be there...don't leave them and forget about them because you are worried about what to do or say. Hold your friend when they are so sad that they can't stand to even get up off the couch. Hold your grieving friend as she cleans out her child's bedroom and packs up memories in rubbermaid boxes. If you have a grieving friend and you really want to help them send them a card saying "I love you," send a personal gift of something the two of you enjoy doing together, or call her up and say I'll be there at 6:00 with dinner for you. Go out of your way to do extraordinary things for the grieving person and don't forget them after a few weeks or months and think they are better. Odds are things are much worse now than they were in the beginning. Just love them and show them you love them.

One way you all show me you love me is by the posts on my blog encouraging me and pushing me to get up each day. By participating in my silly debates and helping us to understand our questions we have about why things happen. Some of you still send me cards to this day and I think it's awesome there are actually people in the world who do that. I need to do better at that!

Don't dodge the grieving person when you see them. Hug them...say I'm sorry and I am thinking about you.

It's hard to know how to handle a grieving person if you have never been through a situation to cause grief for yourself. It's even hard for us to know how to approach a grieving person and everyone would think we would know what to say. It's always hard to know what to say though. That's why I thought I would share with you what I have read. And when in doubt...the less said is usually best.

I hope this helps you all to know how to handle the grieving people in your lives.



  1. You are right. There is no time limit. Last Saturday morning, after a night of dreaming about Ian all night, I woke up so very sad. I started crying. Donna called, I told her all about my heartache "again". She just let me cry. She didn't try to fix it or find the perfect words to say. I am thankful for all the people who just let me share my Ian memories with them. Some days are just so very hard. You are right, many people are experiencing hard days for many different reasons. They just need someone to love them and care that they are hurting so bad they can hardly breathe. I love you and I am sorry are always good words to hear.

  2. I love you Mary. Let's laugh again real soon!
    Laura Grinnell

  3. Thank you for that, Mary, as I am always fearful of what to say to someone who is grieving! I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing and am grateful that you continue to minister to all of us throuh your pain and with God as your Guide!

    Love you girl!

  4. I Love you too Mary and you are so right in this post. People do not know what to say. I know that I myself always wish there was something I could do to make it better but knowing that I can't I am usually at a loss for words and just say I am so sorry for your loss, I am praying for you and (I mean that) and I would be glad to do anything I can to help make it better. I know this may not be exactly what the person needs to hear but I try to be very careful what I say.

  5. You hit the nail on the head. "I'm sorry" is the only statement that seems to fit. You are awesome, Mary. Always know what an inspiration you are to all of us. I pray for God to Bless you because you are always "blessing" me. Thank you for being you.

  6. Mary, you are such a great writer...and every time I read something you wrote, it is such a blessing........You have got to write a book!!!

    And you are so right..Until you have lost a loved can't know the pain. I have lost a husband, mother and daddy. But I can't began to know the pain of losing a child.........I pray for you and Wae all the time. And our Sunday School class (6&7 yr old) pray for you.
    I pray God pours is blessing's on you and Wae!!

    With Love,
    Judy Vaughn

  7. Grief is not a sign of weakness,
    nor lack of faith,
    but the price of LOVE!

  8. Mary, just wanted to let you know I am still thinking about you and Wae. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  9. WOW!! Very well put! Thanks for that. Even though I have lost family memebers it is still very hard trying to find the right words to say to someone who has lost someone close- so thank you so much for sharing that.
    Still praying for you and your family,
    Candi Cronan

  10. Thank you so much for this insight. You are so courageous to share how you feel about these things. Sometimes saying nothing is the best thing of all. If you think you need to say anything then you probably shouldn't. Now my thoughts on anyone saying you should be "over it" or "get better"... I think by "getting over something" that would mean you would be letting go of so many precious memories and things you hold dear. You will never get over anything like this, you will get through your feelings ( in your own time ) but the memory still lives on and I know you want Ian to be remembered ALWAYS! We will all share Magical Ian memories, laughs, crys at every family gathering forever and that is OK! Love you Mary, I feel so privledged you are my sister in law.

  11. Mary -

    We don't know each other, but I work with Kyla and have followed your story for quite some time through her and your blogs. Without meeting him or knowing him Ian has been such an inspiration as have you! I just want you to know that you make a difference in my life by helping me remember how blessed I am to have my two children. When I am frustrated with the attitude from my 4 year old or the screaming of my 9 month old and her ear infection...I breathe and remember how thankful I should be for these wild times in my life! I could go on forever, but I will keep it simple as you say and just say to you....thank you.

  12. “Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength.”
    You are one of the strongest people I have ever known. Everyone that reads this blog and that has followed Ian for the last 3 years loves you and your family so much.

  13. I will forever be thankful that God put us on this path together. Jackson and Ian were like a package deal to me -- now it's just hard because Ian is on a higher path. I love you Mary and all of your family. We will always love Ian too.

  14. Mary, you continue to be an inspiration to me. I'm sorry for the pain you and your family is having to continue to be in my prayers. You and Ian are very special to me. I'm thankful to look at his adorable face each day as his pictures continue to decorate my desk!

  15. Hi Mary,
    It has been a while since I have had a chance to check your blog and am catching up. This entry hits the nail on the head. When my father died, I was 21 and my sister was about to get married. It is still the worst day of my life. The days/months/year that followed were not far behind on that list. What made it worse, were the people that expected me to be over it so quickly. It has been almost 9 years and I am still not "over it". There are still days when I have trouble breathing because I miss my father so much. So, I just want to thank you for posting that. It is too true! The only thing I might add is for people not to tell those grieving to "be strong". That was the phrase that grated my nerves the most. But, thank you again for witnessing to others! You're an inspiration!

  16. Hi I came across your blog accidentally. I don't know you but I would like to commend you on your post. Well done on the fantastic advice. It is very helpful. And I just want to encourage you. Now I know your story, I will be thinking of you and remembering you when I have down days. God bless you as you bless others.