How To Support A Friend After A Loss
It’s not always easy to know what to do when a close friend or relative suffers loss. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a pet or a job, we will all experience loss in our lifetime. How can we show up for the ones we care for when it’s uncomfortable and we don’t know how to support them during such a difficult time?
Answers Are Not Necessary
It is human nature to reason, rationalize and analyze when bad things happen. But a lot of times, this does more harm than good. It can be especially harmful when God is used as the scapegoat. It’s all too easy to deem God a responsible party in the matter, because … well … He’s God! He has all power. And that power could be used to intervene in our suffering.
But answers are not necessary for healing. For example, these answers could cause more pain for your friend rather than helping them to feel better:
“This probably happened because ______.”
“Maybe if you would have done ______, it would have been different.”
“It could be that this had to happen so that ______ could happen.”
“This is all part of God’s plan.”
Even if it is God’s plan, hearing that is unlikely to alleviate the pain and grief your friend is experiencing. Instead of rationalizing why things happened the way they did, focus on how you can be there as a friend with statements like:
“I don’t have the answers for this situation, but I care, and I am here for you.”
“What can I do to make your day better?”
“If you need to talk, I am here to listen. If you don’t want to talk, I can just be here.”
Presence Is Powerful
Any loss, or sense of loss, can create a feeling of loneliness. A close friend’s presence can be powerful just in itself.
I remember a particularly painful time during my divorce that I had somewhat of an emotional breakdown. It felt like my world was spinning out of control and there was nothing I could do to stop it. One of my closest friends sat with me for hours. He had his own wife and kids waiting for him at home, but he sacrificed his time for me. He stuck with me until that wave of intense emotion passed. He said very little; he prayed for me, and said he hated that it was happening and he wished he could do something more. The sincerity of his words could be felt.
While I very realistically may have endured that night without him, looking back, I truly am not sure how I would have without him being there. I just needed someone to see the hope that I could not see.
Another great way to support someone during loss, is to speak life into their situation. That could also be in the form of humor. For example, if you have a funny inside joke that you know would make them laugh, tell it. Or if you notice that their day is putting them into a depressed state because something is reminding them of a loss, do something funny to interrupt the depressed emotion.
For example, I have used funny memes that I feel are appropriate and not insensitive toward their loss to shift their state. Most of the time, I can get a smile or laugh, and that helps get things turned around.
Maybe you have had that happen before, where you felt depressed, tired or down, and someone did something to make you laugh. This can create a shift in your emotions that is truly beneficial.
Another way to speak life to your friend is through encouragement. Tell them how thankful you are to have them in your life. Or tell them things you respect about them, or how you look up to them. If they are suffering the loss of a relative or friend, tell them you know how proud that person would be of them. And you know that even though they are not physically present, they are with them, cheering them on!
Finally, offer to pray with them. Prayer is one of the greatest ways to support anyone.
We all have the power to be a blessing. It can be intimidating and uncomfortable to help someone through pain, loss and suffering. Though you may not be able to change the situation, you can be sit with them and support them nonetheless. Choose to carry them another mile when they can’t walk. This perhaps, is being a friend that stays closer than a brother.