Wherever in the world you live, you can point to terrible incidences of suffering, hurt or violence. Sadly, I’ve sometimes seen myself in articles and blogs about what not to say to a grieving or suffering person. But I’ve also been blessed to receive meaningful expressions of comfort at times when I have suffered or lost a loved one. Here are five things I have found helpful on the receiving end of comfort:
- Be present. At the death of my father, my late brother’s high school friend, Danny, came to his memorial service. Simply his presence and his embrace lifted our hearts. He didn’t need to say anything or bring anything. His presence was a huge comfort. If in doubt, show up.
- Listen and offer comfort. Susan Silk and Barry Goldman wrote about the ring theory of comforting. The person in the center of the crisis can emote, complain, and say what they wish. Those in the circle of family closest to him/her listen and comfort. They go to those further out from the center to the circle of their own friends and support relationships to express their own feelings and stories freely. Comfort goes toward the person in need. Comfort flows inward, emoting and complaining go outward.
- Be a tangible help, no matter how small. When my husband was injured in a fall, a dear friend and her husband brought breakfast to our house. The tangible reminder of their care was a great encouragement after a late night in the emergency room.
- Tell stories of fond remembrance. When my mother died, I valued the words of a dear friend of hers who recounted when my mom had been an example of courage to her. She generously wrote that story down. I still have her written words, a treasured memento.
- If you know a need, meet it, if you are able. A family member with a chronic illness was blessed when a church member mowed their lawn. At a time when I was overwhelmed, a dear friend rolled up her sleeves and cleaned my kitchen with me. Those helpers lifted burdens in tangible ways.
We know the God of all comfort. May we grow as comforters.