Once you yourself have experienced grief, you’re able to understand better how to minister to someone who is grieving.
A year ago, one of my best friends died. She was 27 years old, newly married, in the prime of her life. We’d been friends since high school, and we’d kept in touch faithfully over the years. We were true Kindred Spirits. She cannot be replaced. She is gone.
I’d never lost someone very close to me, so the process of grief was new to me. Over the last year, I’ve learned a lot about the process of grief and how to help those who are grieving. Let me impart some wisdom to those of you who might want to help those who are grieving.
5 Ways: How to Minister to Someone Who Is Grieving
1. Think of grief as a journey in a foreign country.
There are all these articles about the stages of grief. Five stages of grief. Seven stages of grief. Yet grief is not a linear reaction that can be easily explained scientifically. It’s a spiritual and emotional journey that takes turns you never thought it would take. It’s like being dropped unexpectedly into a foreign land and forced to walk along a path where you have no idea where you’re going. You are simply walking along an unknown land, and everything is new and confusing and unexpected.
In my journey so far, I’ve had times of deep sorrow, of crippling anger, of dark despair, and even of great joy. I have seen the beauty of life in deeper ways than I ever thought possible, yet I have also felt the pain of loss in ways I never thought I could feel. I have drawn near to God in ways unknown to me before, and He has drawn near to me.
I have both yelled and cried and laughed and worshiped. I am forever changed in both sorrowful and beautiful ways. I never know what the next week will hold, what the next month will look like, but I’ve embraced the journey.
2. Try to develop true sympathy and empathy
In our hectic, busy-every-minute-of-the-day American life, we have little patience for people who seem to be “slacking” in their duties as fellow Americans. We have little time for tears, for honesty, for sorrow, for disruption to The Schedule. We need to give the person grieving the needed time and tools to grieve, even if it’s inconvenient.
This tells people that grief is wrong, it’s an inconvenience, it’s not important. So many nowadays don’t slow down to truly deal with grief. They paste on fake smiles and go about their days when they are truly dying inside.
Grieving is not simple. Grieving takes time. It’s a lifelong process. It is one of the most important and profound things one can feel, yet it can also be the most damaging and life-killing of things if not dealt with healthily.