Comforting Someone in Their Grief

Reflecting on a tragedy in my life – losing a lifelong friend to suicide – became my first devotion published by The Upper Room. It was gratifying for me in three ways:

  • My first publication of a devotion, a form I enjoy writing.
  • Being published in a devotional I remember my mother reading every morning during my childhood.
  • Knowing God could use my personal and painful experience to create a closer relationship between him and his followers, and to show them how to love one another as he has loved us.

During the trying times we all face, it’s important to remember how much we and others are grieving various losses. It’s important to remember what people really need in their grief.

Image result for job and his three friends

A Gentle Presence

“When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job 2:11-13

“There is a time for everything…a time to be silent and a time to speak.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

My dear friend since childhood had lost her brother to suicide. Although I had the opportunity to see her briefly the weekend of his death, our communication became one-sided once she returned home. Over the following years, I left a few telephone messages until her number changed. I sent three or four letters with news from home and the annual Christmas card. But her grief was deep; she was non-responsive. I prayed for her and for wisdom but let her grieve with no pressure.

Jewish custom calls for “sitting Shiva” during the first seven days of mourning. Traditions also asks mourners to refrain from unnecessary talking and allow the bereaved to initiate conversation. In the story of Job, the arrival of his three friends reflects this custom. They remained silent until he began to speak on the eighth day.
When nearly seven years had passed after her brother’s death, my friend called me. All that time, I had wondered if I was doing the right thing. (Did I write too much? Not enough?) But after years of silence she called and said, “Thank you for being a friend when I could not be relied upon.”
 
Lord, teach us how to be present with those who need comfort, when to comfort with silence, and when to comfort them with words. Amen.
 
Thought for the day: We comfort others with our presence.
Prayer focus: Families of those who choose suicide
 
Previously published in The Upper Room, 2006

One thought on “Comforting Someone in Their Grief

  1. Pingback: Comforting Someone in Their Grief — The Fruitful Life | Ups Downs Family History

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