What Should I Say to Someone Who Is Grieving?
One of the most powerful accounts of Jesus’ life in the Gospels is when He loses his dear friend Lazarus. Even though Jesus knew Lazarus would die, and He knew that Lazarus would be resurrected, Jesus still wept at the loss of his friend (see John 11:32-36). Grief is unavoidable and provides a beautiful opportunity to show love and support to the grieving person.
Whether the person who is grieving is a friend, colleague, neighbor, or family member, you may struggle to know what to say to them, or how to help. Sometimes, not knowing what to say or do makes us avoid the grieving person. It may feel uncomfortable or awkward to interact with a grieving person.
However, the Bible reminds us to carry one another’s burdens and to be there for each other (Galatians 6:2). The grief journey is a significant time in someone’s life when they need people to support them and provide love, care, and encouragement. As a believer, when we speak to a grieving person, it is important to speak with love, humility, and compassion. Below are some examples of what you can say to someone who is grieving.
What Can I Say to Someone Who Is Grieving?
It can be hard to know what to say to someone who is grieving. But do not let that keep you from supporting a friend who has lost a loved one. What we say to a grieving person is less important than our willingness to be present with them. You can visit, sit in silence, and be available to help with a need that arises, such as preparing a meal, babysitting, or driving them to an appointment. Although there is no “one size fits all” thing to say, here are some helpful things you can say to a grieving friend.
How are you managing?
This is a great question to use when you want to check in with the person in a way that invites a conversation. This question will not result in a one-word answer, but rather will give the grieving person a chance to share as you listen.
What day can I come over to help, run an errand, or bring a meal?
Instead of putting the responsibility on the grieving person to ask for help, this question lets them know you are ready and available to help. Be prepared to compare schedules and have some openings in your calendar.
I don’t understand why you lost your loved one. I am praying for you and asking God to bring you comfort and peace.
The reality is that we could never know why their loved one died, and it can be helpful for them to hear you acknowledge that truth. This statement also encourages them to lean on God for comfort and reminds them that God is there for them, too.
Take your time. I am here.
Oftentimes, grieving people feel rushed by family and friends to get over their grief and move on. Saying this will let the grieving person know you understand, are not forcing them to “get over it,” and will continue to be there for them.
I can only imagine how painful it is to have lost your loved one.
This statement acknowledges their pain, is a gentle way to bring up the loss, and relays your concern and care for them.
How can I pray for you today?
It can be a comfort for most people to know they are being prayed for. This question gives them an opportunity to share how they are feeling, what they are going through, and their specific prayer needs.
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What Does the Bible Say about Grief and Being Comforted?
There are plenty of Scripture verses and passages that bring comfort and hope. The Bible affirms the pain of loss, the need to grieve, and the faithfulness of the Lord to provide comfort to those who are grieving. When we are facing grief, Scripture reassures us that we are not alone. Here are eight verses about grief and comfort.
“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live” (Psalm 116:1-2).
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (1 Corinthians 1:3-4).
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Is Grief Just the Loss of Life?
Grief is experienced by those who have lost a loved one, but people may grieve other losses, as well. The loss of a pet, the loss of a relationship, or the loss of a job may be other things that people grieve. Each loss is different and results in a unique grief journey. In fact, no two people grieve exactly the same way. For example, married people will grieve differently than one another, or even siblings raised in the same home will grieve differently. People grieve in distinct ways due to personality, coping skills, life experiences, and a variety of other issues related to the loss.
You can support someone by allowing them to grieve, accepting their emotions, and taking the time to educate yourself about healthy grief. Regardless of the loss, we can help our friends while they grieve by acknowledging their loss, rather than minimizing or dismissing it. We can help them by giving them permission to grieve instead of rushing them to feel better.
Another important way to offer care to those who are grieving is to check in on them by calling, sending a card or flowers, or planning a visit. Each loss is unique and may result in different needs. It is helpful if you bring up the loss, even if it makes you a little uncomfortable, rather than ignoring it or acting like it never happened. You may want to ask how they are managing, how you can pray for them, or what you can do to be of support. Ask God in prayer how you can show this person love, compassion, and support. The Holy Spirit will direct your path and give you the right words in the moment.
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What Should We Not Say to Someone Grieving?
With a desire to say the right thing, or not knowing what to say, sometimes, people mistakenly say the wrong thing to a grieving person. Here are statements to generally avoid when spending time with a grieving person.
They’re in heaven, so you do not have to be sad that they are gone.
Even if the person who passed away was a Christian, their family and friends are still going to grieve their death and feel the sorrow that they are no longer present on earth. Saying a statement like this diminishes the pain the grieving person is feeling and can make them feel that they do not have a right to grieve.
I’m surprised you are still sad about losing your loved one because it’s been so long. I do not feel as sad anymore.
Grief is different for everyone and there is no timetable for how long someone will grieve. No one gets over the death of a loved one, they simply learn how to live without that person. Though the pain may not feel as intense, the loss is still felt, even years and decades after the death. Even if you are not feeling the intense pain of the loss anymore, that does not mean your grieving friend is in the same place. Give a grieving person permission to grieve however long they need.
You need to be strong for those around you/for the kids/etc. or You are so strong!
Most grieving people feel the pressure to be strong and not let themselves be sad, or cry, or get angry about losing their loved one. A statement like this reinforces the guilt and pressure the grieving person may feel. People are weak, but God is strong to get us through whatever trial we endure.
I know just how you are feeling.
Even if you have had a similar loss, the truth is that no two people grieve the same way, and it is impossible for anyone to know how someone else feels when they are grieving. This statement belittles how the grieving person is feeling, takes away from their unique loss, and ends up not being helpful to them.
It is a good thing they are no longer suffering.
Although it is a good thing their loved one is no longer suffering, it does not make their death any easier to cope with. If the grieving person expresses this sentiment, then you know it is a helpful statement for them. However, many grieving people do not find comfort in this statement. Instead listen and let the grieving person take the lead and help you understand their thoughts and feelings.
A Prayer for Your Grieving Friend
Gracious and Loving Father,
I pray for my friend who is grieving the loss of their loved one. You know the intimate details of how deeply they are hurting, how painful the sorrow is, and what they need each day. I ask that you bring them comfort and strength, fulfilling the promise that you are near to the brokenhearted. Surround them, oh Lord, with a community of people who will show them love, compassion, and care. I ask that you would help them in their darkest moments to cling to you. Help them to draw near to you as they are grieving. I ask that they will find hope and healing in the coming months and years. Lord, keep watch over them and their family who are grieving.
In Jesus’ name,
When you spend time with a grieving person, do not be afraid to speak lovingly and compassionately to them. The most helpful thing you can do is to listen. Let them tell their story, share about the loss, and how they are feeling. Your compassion, presence, and listening ear will be instrumental in helping them feel heard, loved, and less lonely. One of the most important things we can do for a grieving person is to pray for them. Keep them in your daily prayers and continue to maintain contact with them.
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Pamela Palmer is a writer, speaker, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces devotionals and faith resources to inspire keeping faith at the center of life. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of others. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is the author of Living a Deeper Faith: Nurture Your Relationship with God and Live a Faith-Fueled Life. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com, and you can follow her at upheldlife.com or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.