Effectively Helping People who are Grieving

By John Montgomery

There's an upcoming Xenos class starting this month to help you be more helpful when a friend is grieving. “Offering Support to the Grieving” starts Wednesday, May 29th, and runs four weeks.

The word “grief” has come to be understood mainly as a reaction to a death. But such a narrow understanding fails to encompass the range of human experiences that create and trigger grief.

Grief is triggered by a loss of some sort – losing someone or something with which we had an attachment. Grief has different levels and intensities. We grieve a little when our favorite tee shirt is ruined and must be thrown away. We grieve a little more when our favorite team loses the championship game. More intense grief comes when a beloved pet dies, when a valued friendship ends, when dreams for our future evaporate, or when someone we love dies.

As followers of Jesus, we are charged to walk alongside each other in our grief. We are called to mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:14) and to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). We are to encourage the timid and faint-hearted (1Thess. 5:14) and to be compassionate, gentle, and patient with each other (Eph. 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:8).

Yet many times, in our efforts to reach out to a suffering friend, we unwittingly hurt the very ones we want to help by saying something inappropriate. Or sometimes, a friend suffers in a way we have not experienced, so we think we have nothing to offer and say nothing. Or perhaps their pain frightens us, so we avoid being around them.

Too often, we try to “fix” the person rather than comfort them.

So what should we do when a friend or loved one is suffering? How can we love them, support them, and walk along side them in their suffering in a way that encourages and helps rather than hurts?

These are some of the questions that will be discussed in the class. It will go in depth into how to minister to those who are suffering, and will help an individual learn practical ways to support and comfort others, avoid saying or doing things that are not helpful, and develop better listening skills. The class will also cover how to communicate with children and teenagers regarding grief and loss in an age-appropriate way.

Each participant will receive a copy of Nancy Guthrie’s book, What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts) (a $12.95 value), along with many practical handouts. 

For further information, please contact John Montgomery at grief@dwellcc.org.

Note: This course is designed to help an individual learn to support a grieving person, not find support for themselves.