Your day is going well. You are plodding along, dealing with your new companions, sorrow and loneliness, learning about them and their new significance in your life when…BAM! It happens! Just like the two comets in this photo are on a collision course with one another, you find yourself on a collision course with a well-meaning friend and their words of ‘encouragement.’ They ask how you are doing and you decide you will be honest with them. “I miss my husband terribly and I just want the pain to stop…please pray for me.”
Now, you know things are not going to get better anytime soon. You know that you will be traveling with loneliness and pain for some time yet. You didn’t ask for advice, only prayer. You just needed to express how much you miss your spouse and that it hurts A LOT. Your well-meaning friend then proceeds to tell you how much worse it’s going to get, especially with the upcoming holidays. Did you really need a reminder of this??
Friends, so well-meaning and caring, can sometimes make us feel worse. This happened to me over the weekend. I had expressed how much I was missing my dear Brian, how I just wanted the pain to stop, and requested their prayers. My friend, very clinically, proceeded to explain to me how I must travel this dark, lonely, and painful road. The pain will mellow in time, they said, but won’t ever go away and reminded me how I’ll be missing my Brian even more with the coming holidays. I know this was meant to encourage me, but it didn’t. I already knew this and didn’t need the reminder. I have tried not to focus on the upcoming holidays and the acute sadness I’ll be feeling. I have tried not to focus on the darkness of the journey. My friend also encouraged me to not isolate myself but to stay connected with by bible study groups, which I am doing. But do I really want to expose myself to constant reminders of how dark, lonely, and painful it’s going to get?? I think I’ll stay in isolation, thank you very much…lol!
Another time a dear friend, a ‘mom-type’ in my life, told me within a month or two of my dear husband’s passing that perhaps God wanted me to stay single after all. Brian and I had only been married 24 days before the Lord took him Home and we had both married late in the game – 50 and 53. This was the first marriage for us both. I know she didn’t mean to hurt me, but that’s exactly what she did.
Sigh. What to do, what to do with well-meaning friends who are trying to help because they love and care about us, but at times botch it. As Christians, we must respond in love. Sometimes it is best to just take what they give us in the spirit intended and say, ‘thank you,’ and move on. Other times we might gently explain to them that what they just gave us is not what we needed or asked for. We must remember that in all likelihood they do not understand what we are experiencing. How can they unless they have gone through it? A spouse’s passing is far, far different from the passing of a parent, or child, or other loved one. I know the pain of a parent’s passing. I know the pain of a sibling’s untimely passing. In my introduction post I stated that we are literally missing a part of us…half, to be exact. As the scripture says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, New King James)
If you know a widow or widower, and you have not experienced what they are experiencing, please take a moment to think before you speak. Often what is most needed is simply a loving and patient ear to listen. Please be sensitive. Unless expressly asked for advice, refrain from giving it, especially if you have not experienced what they are going through. Just let your friend talk…listen without judgement, without trying to ‘fix’ them. When it is time for you to speak and if you don’t know what to say, tell them this. Offer to pray with or for them. Guide them to the Psalms. We appreciate this far more than being told you understand us when you actually don’t. When meeting with or writing to your grieving friend, pray beforehand and ask “…the God of ALL comfort…” (2 Corinthians 1:3, New King James) to give you what your friend is needing so you can then pass it along to them, and if the Lord would have you to say anything.
Above all, please be patient with us and let us express our pain, our loneliness, our sadness, our fears. Don’t think we’re expecting you to ‘fix’ us. We know you can’t do this…only God can and will, in time. If you try to ‘fix’ us, chances are you will inadvertently hurt us. A warm hug, a kind smile, the holding of a hand, a phone call, a card, an invitation for coffee/tea, a visit, an offer of help, an available, empathetic, and loving spirit go a long way in helping the grieving and wounded heart to heal. We do not want to be lied to or mislead…we want the truth. But sometimes being brutally blunt is not the best way to present it, especially to someone who is grieving.
By no means am I saying that only widows and widowers can comfort and encourage widows and widowers, though they are the best qualified because they actually do understand. As Christians, we are ALL of us called to, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, New King James) I only ask that you think before you speak. Try to put yourself in our place…how would you want to be encouraged and comforted? What would you find most helpful? I hope I have not discouraged anyone from reaching out to comfort and encourage a grieving friend. Instead, I hope I have been able to give you some insights so that you will now know how to be much more effective and helpful. Believe me…your friends will thank you! 🙂
I don’t know. Maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind when reading my friend’s email. It’s nearly six months since my dear Brian’s passing and I must say that the bulk of the encouragement and comfort I have received from friends has been positive and affirming! Thank you to ALL my friends for your love, concern, and support…it has not gone unnoticed by me, nor by the One who will reward your loving efforts. God is good!
Together in Christ,
P.S. Have you any stories or comments you would like to share about well-meaning friends’ words of ‘encouragement’, or something you were given that really helped you during a time of need or grief, or how the Lord has used you to be a friend to someone in need? Any insights you would like to share?
- What I’m About (joyinthesorrow.wordpress.com)
- Where Tragedy, Pain, Service and Love Intersect (fromraewithlove.com)