I was designed to understand grief. Sometimes I wish I weren’t because it comes with special burdens. But it also allows me to see others’ grief quickly, which creates opportunities to offer comfort. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
- For some reason, we seem to associate the word “grief” with death. There are many deep griefs that have nothing to do with someone dying. Look for this. These grieving people are everywhere.
- Prolonged grief permanently changes a person. Both the before and after versions are valuable and beloved by God. Let the grieved person know that you love the “after” version as well.
- Acknowledge and validate grief rather than trying to erase it (you can’t). We sometimes offer platitude statements to comfort people because we don’t know what to say. So we say things we’ve heard other people say:
- All things work together for good.
- You just need to keep trusting God.
- God is always good, so this is really a good thing…..
- God must have needed another angel.
- Apparently, God didn’t want you to have children.
- You can still serve God, even with this debilitating injury/disease/etc.
While well-intended and sometimes even true, these statements (and 1,000 others like them) often cause more hurt in the moment than comfort. Being present, allowing grief, and grieving with the wounded is the greatest support we can give. Validate the hurt, create space for the grief, and pray for them.
THE RING METHOD
When a tragedy or difficult situation happens, people are affected in a ripple pattern with grief touching everyone from the point of impact to the outer rings of the ripple pattern. Everyone hurts, and everyone deserves comfort. The “Ring Method” is a great tool that helps us know when to comfort others and where to seek comfort. Here’s how it works:
If you draw a circle, the center of the circle is the most affected person (the one who has just lost their spouse; the one who is in the ICU after a bad car accident; the mother who just miscarried her first child). The first inner ring of ripple effect are the people closest to the affected/grieving person: immediate family members. The next ring of ripple effect are very close friends and extended family members. The next ring out are colleagues, neighbors, and other social groups. The final outer ring are acquaintances and community members.
The rule of the Ring Method is that we always offer comfort IN, and dump OUT. If I’m a neighbor, I should seek comfort from people in an outer ring rather than from the already hurting family in the inner rings. This method keeps the people most affected from having to carry the extra burden of their friends’/colleagues’/extended family’s grief as well as their own.
May God give you sight to see the wounded and wisdom to know how to minister.