How to Help Someone who is Grieving

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How do you help or encourage someone who has suffered a loss?GiveFlower_PinOpt_13553296935_e8514d714d_b

Sometimes it’s incredibly simple.

Our daughter Michelle died when she was a week old.

It wasn’t a shock; we knew it was coming.

We had known since the first sonogram, twenty weeks into the pregnancy. The doctors couldn’t tell us exactly what went wrong, but they said she had so many severe birth defects that she wouldn’t live long after she was born.

For the next twenty weeks, Laurel carried a child who was destined to die.

On Monday, June 1st, 1987 she went into labor early in the morning and Michelle was born by C-section at about 7 p.m.

She died exactly one week later, on June 8th, at around noon.

Much of that time, I was in a fog, but certain things that people did made such an impression on me that I can remember them in vivid detail, almost 28 years later.

The four things I’m about to list brought true comfort in the most difficult time of my life. And while you may not be able to duplicate them exactly, perhaps you will be able to do something similar when you have a friend who is hurting.


They just showed up.

It was around 5 p.m. and Laurel was still in labor. Our OB came into the labor room and said, “There’s someone out in the waiting room who wants to see you.”

I went out to the waiting room and four people from our church were standing there. (At the time, I was pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Greenville, Texas.)

They had driven all the way from Greenville (about 50 miles) to Baylor Hospital in Dallas—at rush hour. Just so they could hug me and tell me they were praying for us and that they cared.

They weren’t able to do anything else.

But they didn’t need to.

They just showed up.

And I’ve never forgotten that moment.


He called.

That same evening I got a telephone call from my best friend, Ralph. He pastored another church in Greenville at the time.

This was long before the days of cell phones.

To this day I have no idea how he tracked me down or managed to get a call through to me.

I don’t even remember what we talked about.

All I remember is that he called.

I can still see the place where I was sitting while we talked.


He mowed our grass and gave us blackberries.

On Wednesday, I came home to get things ready to bring Laurel and Michelle home. (Beyond our wildest dreams, she survived long enough for us to bring her home—but that’s for a different post.)

When I pulled into our driveway I noticed immediately that someone had mowed our grass.

I had no idea who it was—until I walked onto our front porch.

Sitting there was a gallon container, filled with freshly-picked blackberries.

Our next door neighbor Roger mowed our lawn and a left us a gallon of blackberries from his beautifully-cultivated bushes. That would have been a substantial portion of his harvest.

I don’t recall if Roger ever spoke with us about our loss, offered any sage words of comfort, or quoted any scripture.

He didn’t need to.

I remember his act of kindness as if it happened yesterday. He touched my heart in a way few others have.

And all he did was mow our grass

And give us blackberries.


He took me out for coffee.

We had Michelle at home from Thursday through Monday. By Saturday, I was exhausted and stressed. I knew our little girl was going to die soon, and I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect.

My friend Ralph dropped by that Saturday afternoon and offered to take me out for coffee.

I was reluctant to go. (What if Michelle died while I was gone?)

Laurel told me that she seemed stable and that I should go with Ralph.

We went to Grandy’s and drank coffee, and talked.

I don’t remember what we talked about.

I do remember that my friend helped bring a little normalcy to my life that day. For a few moments I stepped out of my grief and just enjoyed chatting with a friend.

We shared hundreds of cups of coffee over the years.

I remember that one.


Do something nice. It’s profoundly simple.

Four simple things had an indelible impact on me, so powerful that I can recall them in vivid detail nearly three decades later.

Just routine, humble, mundane acts of kindness.

A visit, a phone call, a mowed lawn, a gallon of blackberries, a cup of coffee.

Do you want to help your grieving friends?

Do something nice for them.

They’ll never forget it—or you.

Has someone done something profoundly simple that helped you when you were grieving? Tell us your story in the comments below.

photo credit: Free Therapy Picture via photopin (license) [Modifications: cropped and added text]

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