Death is difficult. It makes people very uncomfortable. As a result, people often say and do the wrong thing in an attempt to comfort the mourning. Some try to “intellectualize” the feelings of the one who is grieving. Some informal studies show that the majority of advice grieving people receive implies that they should not feel the way they are feeling. This is reflected in statements like: “You’ve got to be strong.” “You’ve got to dry those tears, pick yourself up, and get on with your life.” Sometimes, in our best efforts to comfort the grieving, we actually complicate the process.
My friends, we have no right to tell the bereaved how they should feel. Different people tend to grieve differently. Our goal should be to show love and provide support. We don’t have to say anything. In the midst of devastating loss, Job’s friends came to be with him. They traveled to be with Job in an effort to “show him sympathy and comfort him” (Job 2:11). Their intentions were right. It’s when they opened their mouths that they got it all wrong. Many times the things we say, in an effort to provide some comfort, are untrue and place an even greater burden on the grief-stricken. I’ve often heard it said that “time heals all wounds.” Those of you who have experienced the loss of a spouse, a child, a close friend, etc., can attest to the fact that this sentiment is false. For some, the passing of time can ease the heartache, but time doesn’t heal ALL wounds. The sting of loss is always there. It may get easier, but the emptiness is ever-present. Comforters will sometimes appeal to the good in one’s life, reminding them to focus on their blessings. I once conducted the funeral for a couple whose fifth child was stillborn. An individual tried to console the couple by pointing out that they should take solace in the fact that they still had four healthy children. Needless to say, those words were no consolation. And please, please do not attempt to comfort someone who is mourning by suggesting that their loss is God’s will. Have you ever heard these statements?
• “God needed him or her more.”
• “It was just their time to go.”
• “God needed another angel in heaven.”
I don’t have all the answers when it comes to death and how to handle it, but I do know this—we do not serve a God that intentionally takes the lives of our loved ones. Why would God need a small child more than the parents? Why would God need a thirty-year-old mother more than her children?
The best words of comfort we could ever say are: “I love you,” and “I am here for you.” It should also be noted that nothing takes the place of our presence. One of our own should never grieve alone. We need each other; it’s just that simple. When we’re hurting, we need a hug, we need an ear to listen, we need a shoulder to cry on. More than pithy sayings, we just need you to be there.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. -1 Thessalonians 4:13