If you aren’t sure how to come alongside and brave sorrow with someone you know who’s experiencing loss, here are ten suggestions.
Sometimes braving sorrow with someone means delivering ready-to-bake pizzas.
At least it did for us.
Within hours of a devastating ultrasound – one in which we learned our preborn baby had died – one of my husband Ted’s coworkers bought us pizza.
You see, he and his wife had walked through a miscarriage too. Not only did they understand firsthand the heartbreak and shock, but they also realized how difficult it was to care for other children through it. So they fed our kids’ bellies for us. They served us in a practical way without even being asked.
Maybe you know someone who is experiencing loss right now. It may not be a miscarriage. Instead, perhaps it’s job, relationship, or health related.
How can you brave sorrow alongside them, as our friends did for us? Here are ten suggestions.
10 Ways to Brave Sorrow with Someone Experiencing Loss
1. Acknowledge Grief
Reject the temptation to say nothing. Instead, offer a simple “I’m sorry” or even “I don’t know what to say.” In doing so, you acknowledge their loss and affirm that their grief is valid.
Brave sorrow with someone by saying “I’m sorry” and letting them know it’s okay to grieve.
2. Listen More, Talk Less
The most important gift you can offer is your ears. You can be, as James writes, “quick to listen, slow to speak.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t say anything at all. As I mentioned above, “I’m so sorry” or even “I don’t know what to say” are helpful. But keep your words to a minimum, unless asked to speak more.
Brave sorrow with someone by being willing to listen more and talk less.
3. Commit to Pray … and Do It
How many times have you said, “I’ll pray for you,” and then forgotten to actually follow through? I’m guilty of it.
Determine to pray regularly and let the person know that you are. Remind them – whether in person or via text, email, snail-mail card, or phone call – that you are asking God to comfort and be near to them as they mourn.
Brave sorrow with someone by committing to pray for them and actually doing it.
4. Say “Me Too”
Have you been through a similar loss? If so, say “me too.”
There is a camaraderie of sorrow, or what Scripture calls a “fellowship” of suffering (Philippians 3:10) that comes when we say, “I get it. I’ve been there too. It hurts.”
Yet, there’s also a balance that needs to happen here. Be sure that when you say, “I understand,” that you don’t make their loss about your loss. Empathize, but in a way that keeps the focus on them and their grief.
Brave sorrow with someone by empathizing with their feelings of grief, yet resist the urge to make the loss about you.
5. Withhold Unsolicited Advice
Many of us have our own stories of loss, whether it’s a relationship, a job, a dream, or in another area. Sometimes this can cause us to assume we’re an expert on this particular type of loss. The truth is, we are an expert on our situation and what it felt like. However, we aren’t an authority on someone else’s loss and what they may be feeling.
Our desire to offer advice may be well-intended, but if it isn’t specifically asked for, it can be unhelpful, and perhaps even hurtful.
Brave sorrow with someone by avoiding the tendency to offer advice and assuming their situation is identical to yours.
6. Respect the Grief Process
As I talk about in Braving Sorrow Together, not everyone responds to grief in the same way. Our individual personalities and life experiences influence how we react to loss and express sorrow.
You may not respond to and process loss in the same manner or at the same rate as the person you’re supporting. Resist the urge to make them grieve as you would and instead respect their individual grief process.
Brave sorrow with someone by supporting the individual way and pace they mourn.
7. Love Without Conditions
It may be a natural tendency to want to judge a situation and the people involved and decide if you feel they deserve your sympathy and support. Too often, many of us want to love with conditions.
This isn’t what others need from you and me, though. And, most of the time, we don’t even have enough information to accurately do that. Instead, we can choose to love them without conditions.
Brave sorrow with someone by rejecting the desire to determine if someone deserves your empathy and support.
8. Encourage Regularly
While our lives are busy, it doesn’t require much of you and me to encourage someone else regularly. We can share a Scripture verse, write a handwritten note, treat someone to coffee or tea, or send a care package.
Sometimes small efforts lift someone’s spirits in large, significant ways, reminding them that they aren’t alone in what they face.
Brave sorrow with someone by encouraging them on a regular basis.
9. Ask the Right Questions
Asking the right questions is important. It can help determine whether someone feels loved or feels judged, particularly if they are experiencing a relational, job, or health-related loss.
If you haven’t experienced a particular loss, though, you may not know what the right questions are to even ask. It turns out it’s not as difficult as it may seem.
Ask things like: “Can I watch the kids for you today?” or “I’m going to the grocery store, what can I pick up for you?”
Brave sorrow with someone by meeting practical needs rather than delving into details someone may not be ready to share.
10. Remember Long-Term
Even as time helps grief become lighter, sorrow can still resurface abruptly and unexpectedly. Practicing long-term remembrance helps someone who’s grieving feel less alone in their sorrow. It’s a concentrated effort on your part to continually communicate that you see them, remember them, and love them.
When it comes to significant dates, you can actively take the time to recognize them. This may include sending a card, making a phone call, or even treating someone to lunch. On holidays, you can check in to make sure they aren’t spent alone.
Brave sorrow with someone by remembering difficult calendar dates, listening, and praying for months and even years.
Take the Initiative to Brave Sorrow with Others
Over seven years later, I still think about those pizzas.
For me, they serve as a beautiful reminder of what it means to brave sorrow with someone in a simple, but practical manner.
It’s my prayer that you too will reach out and brave sorrow – whether that means pizzas or not – with those in your life who are experiencing loss.
For more practical ideas on how to brave sorrow with someone experiencing loss, read my new book, Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life Is Hard.
About Braving Sorrow Together
How do you cope when life is hard? Is there a way to grieve so that seasons of loss become seasons of growth?
Braving Sorrow Together: The Transformative Power of Faith and Community When Life is Hard is about where to turn when life is hard. Ashleigh Slater weaves together Scripture, personal stories, and guest entries to comfort the suffering and encourage hopeful grieving.
Whether your trials concern health, employment, relationships, or even death, grief can turn into growth when we lean on Christ and others. Braving Sorrow Together provides solace for hard times and advice for getting through them with grit and grace.