5 Ways to Comfort Someone Who is Grieving


Today I am honored to have a guest post included on Ruth Soukup’s blog, Living Well Spending Less.

Hello all!  I am Susan B. Mead, an author, speaker, chaplain and mom. I authored the book, Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace. Prior to that, I spent 22+ years in corporate America with Johnson & Johnson until I decided to retire 10-years early because I realized things get broken, discarded and replaced in life, but people matter…and I wanted to spend time with those who matter most. Why?

  • In 2004, I lost Bette, my younger sister and a brilliant PhD nurse, to suicide.
  • In 2008, I lost Kyle, my 20 year old college-aged son to drugs and alcohol on the last night of spring break.
  • In 2013, I was in the grandstands cheering on Amby Burfoot, my cousin, as he ran the 45th anniversary of winning the Boston Marathon, only to see the first bomb explode directly across the street.

Having experienced my share of grief, I learned God shines the brightest light in the darkest moments and shows up when we need him most. I simply want to share my journey to inspire, empower and equip others…You too can find grace in the midst of grief.

Remember That Your Words Matter

The first thing I learned when training as a Chaplain was that the most gracious words you can share when a friend is dealing with loss are “I can’t imagine…”

I can’t imagine dignifies their loss, their pain and their feelings. It also shows how much you care about your words and their dignity. Give your precious friend the grace you would want should you find yourself in their situation.

How do you give grace? Following the words I can’t imagine, here is the key point. Please do not be tempted to define their grief with your words. Insert no words such as pain, anger, devastation, hopelessness, helplessness, etc. Any word inserted is how you would feel and may or may not address their feelings.

I care. You matter to me. I’m here to listen. You are in my prayers.
Yes, your words matter, so please choose them wisely. Your intention is to comfort your friend rather than wound them with your words, so pause a moment and consider carefully how you would feel hearing the words you are about to say.

Please be mindful and skip platitudes or words that minimize your friend’s loss and their feelings. Examples follow—God needed a new angel. They are better off. Have you heard about this person’s loss? Or I know exactly how you feel (please do not follow these words with a tirade about you or someone else).

Your words can offer your friend such comfort and peace.

Should your friend be dealing with a loss of a family member or friend due to suicide or drug/alcohol interaction or overdose, remember to not minimize the person or the loss of that person. God’s greater plan may take a long time to unfold, so please withhold any words that may be misinterpreted as judgmental on your part. We learn that we don’t always know God’s plan even when it seems so evident.

Here’s just a couple of examples I heard following my sister’s suicide:
I’m so sorry she committed the unpardonable sin. I’m so sorry she’s gone to hell.

Or this comment I heard at a friend’s son’s funeral:
Well, he was just a “druggy” anyway, so no big loss.

Can you imagine adding the burden of hearing those (or similar) words to your loss or your friend’s loss? None of us would intentionally speak so callously.

Read more at Living Well Spending Less