With a heavy heart, I am re-posting Words for the Broken.  This morning, a young friend of our family lost their youngest, three-year-old daughter.  It was sudden and unexpected.  As my heart breaks in their sorrow and grief, I ask that you read the simple advice below.  I also ask that you lift your heart in prayer for this young family and for those in your life who are facing their own personal struggles.

I’m convinced that death and divorce bring out the worst in people.  Some folks behave as though the event is contagious and fade out of the lives of those left behind.  Others simply shed their facade and display their true colors.  I guess you could say this is redundant.

I’ve faced many joys in recent years and many sorrows.  My best friend’s husband died in a sudden and tragic accident.  Two young couples each lost their newborn sons within hours of giving birth.  My husband lost both his parents within three months of each other.  A dear friend lost her  battle with breast cancer.  My mother died.  The days, weeks, months and years that followed these events provide much of the council here.

Walking through the storm of grief that accompanies the death of a loved one is harrowing.  It is traumatic and confusing.  Turmoil ensues in the first hours and days of the death and gives passage to a journey of unspeakable suffering.  Unfortunately, it is during these heart-rending times that many of us stumble with our words and deeds all delivered with good intention but all too often cause additional injury to the grieving.

Conveying heart-felt sympathies does not have to be tricky yet for some reason the discomfort of death often prompts us to deliver canned and inappropriate responses.

“It was for the best.”

“It was God’s will.”

“God does not give you more than you can handle.”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“This will make you stronger.”

“You need to move on.”

“I know how you feel.”

“You have other children / You can have other children.”

“You will get over it.”

All of those statements are inappropriate and injurious.

What do we say to someone who is suffering from the death of a loved one?  As with all etiquette principles, we must first and foremost consider the feelings of the other person.  This is definitely not the time to turn the focus onto you.  You must dig deep and become selfless.  You do not and cannot know what they are feeling.  Their grief experience is theirs and theirs alone. Appropriate comments may be any of the following:

“I’m sorry.”

“I cannot imagine what you must be feeling.”

“I’m here to support you in whatever you need.”

When in doubt as to what to say, try a gentle hug, a shared tear, a silent prayer.  All these non-verbal messages will convey to the broken your authentic feelings without the risk of saying something unintentionally hurtful.

Then, when the days turn to weeks and the weeks into months and years, demonstrate your best form ever by quietly walking alongside the broken for the duration of their journey, as long as that may take.  That my friends, is the epitome of good form.  ♥