We all know someone who is going through a hard time or a time of grief. It may even be someone in our own family (or our own self) who is going through a tough season in life.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to know what to say to those who are experiencing an extremely tough time or who are battling deep depression, debilitating anxiety, intense loss, or tumultuous grief…so what happens (many times) is these special people end up being displaced or ignored.
If you know of someone who has gone through the death of a close loved one, a major breakup or divorce, a suicide attempt, an illness, adultery or betrayal, deep church hurt, family issues, addictions/rebellion/estrangement of a family member, or another situation of great heartache, please consider this list and reach out to them. You truly have the power to make an incredible difference by offering encouragement, compassion, support, and love!
7 Things To Realize About Someone Who Is Going Through A Hard Time:
1. Realize they are hurting deeply. Life as they knew it has been abruptly shattered. They may be forgetful, be in a “fog,” or not answer phone calls or text messages.
Sometimes their pain runs so deep that they seem to lose their way.
They may act uncharacteristically and say or do things they normally wouldn’t. Grief and loss changes people. They most likely will go through a time of needing to figure out who they are as they rebuild their life.
2. They may not reach out for help…or they may not yet be open to receiving help. They may feel as though they are in a dark miry pit with no knowledge of how to climb out. They may even be too depressed to even think about getting help. Be there for them. Offer your help. Ask if they specifically need anything. Be a good family member or friend and let them know they have your unconditional love and support.
Ask, in a supportive and kind way, “How can I help you?” or, “How may I help you through this?”
Whatever you do, don’t lecture them, try to “fix” them, make them feel guilty or badly for how they feel, or make them feel like they’re your “feel good” project of the day. Just be real..and just be you.
3. It will take time for them to heal. Anytime a heart is broken, it takes time, comfort, self-work, genuine love, and encouragement to level out.
They’re not going to just “snap out of it” or “be their old self.” Don’t become frustrated with them. Believe me, they are just as frustrated as you may become after they aren’t able to shut off their heartache or grief. Don’t heap additional guilt onto them by placing unfair expectations on them. They can, and most likely will, emerge from their situation better…but it will take time.
4. They can seem fine one minute and then be completely down or irritable the next. Feelings can be sporadic and totally unpredictable during times of grief and loss. Allow them to feel what they need to feel…be patient with them.
There are so many ups and downs a person will go through when going through situations of heartache, anger, and deep grief. Reminders of their loss can also spring up out of nowhere, at any given time, which also create ups and downs for a griever. Please allow them the freedom to go through all of these ups and downs without reacting to them. They’re not meaning to be hurtful–or irritated–on purpose towards others…it is not meant to be personal…they’re merely trying to get through their pain on a day to day (and sometimes an hour by hour) basis.
5. Don’t assume other people are encouraging them or being there for them. More times than not, they can feel isolated and alone. Even if they don’t ask for it, they need love and encouragement. Show compassionate concern for them. Do NOT ignore them or act as though their grief experience didn’t happen. Don’t drop out of their life. They need loving and loyal support more than ever!
They WILL remember who was there for them…and who was not.
6. They truly hate when family and friends attempt to minimize or downplay their pain…or worse, try to make them artificially feel better. Many times, when someone is hurting, their loved ones are desperate to make the one who is hurting feel better. Many times, they want to help but do not understand how to help their loved one, so they fumble around and say whatever awkwardly comes to mind. Most people also try to avoid talking about the uncomfortable topic of grief…so they try to cheer the person up (out of good intentions) by changing the topic or being awkwardly cheerful around the hurting person.
Be honest and tell the hurting person, “I have no idea what to say or do to help you, but please know that I care and I’m here and I’m willing to help you in any way that I can.”
Majority of the time, words fall empty and fail but letting them know you care doesn’t.
Also, if they lost a loved one, don’t be afraid to mention their deceased loved one’s name. Don’t worry about bringing their deceased loved one up in conversation…they’re on their mind and in their heart every single day.
7. They want family and friends to be genuine and sincere when they reach out to them. They most likely have already heard a ton of well-intentioned cliches, such as, “You’ll find another spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend,” or, “They’re in a better place,” or, “You can always have another baby,” or, “God must’ve needed an angel,” or, “Life isn’t always fair,” or, “Everything happens for a reason,” – and everyone’s seemingly favorite: “I’m praying for you” (absolutely nothing wrong with prayer…just if you say it, please actually do it and continue to pray for your loved one).
Keep in mind to be helpful by infusing them with hope just by being present, inviting them out for coffee or a movie, or letting them know that although they are in horrible pain, it won’t always be like this. Better days WILL come…in time.
Some may not want to talk, so empathetically follow their lead.
If you’re not sure, ask if they’d like to talk, ask how you can specifically pray for them, offer to do a specific errand or chore for them, tell them you would like to bring them dinner, or offer them a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant that they can use at a future date.
The more sincere, heartfelt, and compassionate you can be, the better.
Actions always trump words when it comes to helping people through life’s hurts and disappointments.
In ending this post, it’s important to know that each person is different.
Some may welcome an opportunity to talk or would love to be invited to do something to take their mind off of their heartache, while some may feel a strong need to isolate themselves and be alone. Some may need to talk about the event that broke their heart, while others may not want to talk about it at all.
When all else fails, simply show up, reach out (and keep reaching out), allow the person to grieve, LISTEN, and simply be there and care.
Everybody needs people who care about them. Please consider these 7 ideas and offer your hurting family and friends HOPE, encouragement, and genuine love today!
©2014 by Kim Niles/Grief Bites. All rights reserved.
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For more encouragement:
Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): Click here for book
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FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays
5. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Christmas: http://bible.com/r/3V5
6. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Happy New Year!: http://bible.com/r/3Zv
7. Valentine’s Day: Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/14059-valentines-day-experiencing-holidays-with-jesus
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⭐️⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is for encouragement purposes only and is not in any way to be construed as medical, emotional, mental, relational, or psychological advice. We hope to serve as a bridge to encourage others by sharing our personal grief and life experiences. Please contact a qualified healthcare professional, mental health professional, or qualified pastor for guidance and advice.