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Everyone dies.  Knowing that, however, does not make it any easier to endure when we lose a loved one.  Whether that loved one is a close relative or a world renown legend, such as the “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson, loss of a life yields grief.

Although there are many ways to help loved ones in their grief, the following 6 suggestions are a good start.

  1. Listen. Death has a way of making the living reflect.  Survivors‘ thoughts are often flooded with memories of the departed, consideration of their own mortality, or evaluation of their own accomplishments.  These thoughts need to flow unimpeded.  So just listen.  Don’t lecture. Don’t focus on yourself. Don’t attempt to explain the unexplainable.
  2. Avoid the use of cliches. If you must speak, resist summing up complex situations with “Christian-ese” platitudes.  Phrases such as: “God works in mysterious ways;” “You’ve got to have faith;” “Let go and let God;” or “God never gives us more than we can bear;” while true, may not be comforting to hear during an emotionally challenging time.
  3. Stand in the gap for the grieving. Sometimes the last thing a person may feel like doing when dealing with a loss is praying for themselves. Do it for them. Pray without ceasing.  You don’t have to pray out loud, unless someone specifically asks you to do so.  Bathe every situation that you are privy to in prayer.  You may not know what to do, how to respond, or what comes next, but the LORD does.  Ask him to intervene on behalf of those who need his comfort and guidance.
  4. Make yourself useful behind the scenes.  Loss of appetite often plagues those who grieve.  If food is already prepared it is easier to help them to nourish themselves.  Prepare generous meals.  If you don’t cook well, ask someone who does, or send out for food.  If money is an issue, pool your resources with others who are willing to offer support in this way. People tend to gather together frequently when someone passes.  Clean up for the grieving – unless it comforts them to do it for themselves.  Unpleasant duties, like washing dishes or cleaning the bathroom go a long way to easing the burdens of those who have suffered a loss.
  5. Be sure to check in with survivors six to nine months after the funeral.  I know from personal experience that this can be a very lonely time.  At the time of the death, many people gather to console and comfort the living.  But after a while, once people return to their daily routines, the survivors can be left alone to sort through confusing and painful memories and emotions.  Make yourself accessible for a long while, if for no other reason than to give the survivors time to adjust to life without their loved one.
  6. Refuse to set a time limit on mourning.  Every person grieves loss differently.  Some mourn heavily at first, then less over time.  Others mourn more intensely as time passes.  Some people never appear to mourn at all then suddenly break down.  It is not your job to determine how long is long enough.  If you are concerned that survivor’s grief has become unhealthy, seek the advice of a professional counselor, a lay counselor, or a pastor. Otherwise, allow people to do what comes naturally.

The bible tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn.” Death is not a time for posturing, exercising your exegetical prowess, or showing how much scripture you have memorized.  It is a time for comforting and healing.  It is a time of selfless compassion.  It is an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Christ, and to show his love to those most in need.  Humble yourself and serve gladly without any thought for personal gain.  In short, be a blessing.

And be blessed, Family.