Four Ways to Help a Woman Who is Grieving
Ministering to a grieving woman is a hard task. The emotions are intense. The situation which prompted the emotions is often traumatic. There is no quick “fix.” There are no easy answers. But you can be a resource.
Here are 4 ways to come alongside a grieving woman.
My first action is to show I care. I can do this by listening. Listening well is important for two reasons.
- Women (all people really) give up when they feel consistently unheard.
- Emotional pain increases when others don’t listen, understand, and act with compassion.
Listening well doesn’t mean using Scripture to lecture or prove a point. In fact, listen to her story before giving Scripture or adding any other input.
“The biggest help is probably validation without judgment.” Connie
The worst thing I can do is to not respond. It’s okay for me to say, “I don’t know what to say or what to do.”
I can also show I care by my actions.
- I might coordinate a helpful action (meals, cleaning, babysitting, gardening).
- I might do something myself (send her a note, do an activity together, pray with her).
I must not do anything that would make the woman feel inferior, inadequate, or unneeded. I need to be mindful that what is helpful or not helpful varies from woman to woman. So, I need to ask her.
Second, I’ll encourage and support the women in her grieving process. My aim is to encourage her “to choose completion and recovery rather than isolation and avoidance” (John James).
- I do this by assuring the woman that she is not going crazy. Grief is unpredictable and it hurts a lot. Emphasizing the normalcy of grief and the wide-range of ways grief can affect her is helpful even if she already knows this. In her present state of pain, this information can bring some relief and assurance that she isn’t crazy.
- I won’t try to talk her out of her feelings or rush her unique process.
- I remind her that she is not alone. There are people who want to help her (like me) though this process.
- And most importantly, I remind her that God is here too. And because of that I am able to offer hope that a better day is coming.
“Above all remember God understands their pain & can help in ways you can’t.” BG
Grieving is a disorderly process, unpredictable in appearance and manifestations. It is hard work. The steps to healing differ in expression, intensity, and time. Because our society hasn’t (as a whole) taught us about the grief process, its wide array of feelings, its impact on our behaviors and body, and the fact that grieving is normal, many women struggle needlessly and far longer than necessary.
Often people are afraid of or uncomfortable with the intense feelings of others. So they change the subject, minimize the feelings and intellectualize the situation. This is done by saying something that appeals to the intellect. To grieve well, a woman in pain needs to acknowledge those losses.
Some of these losses could include:
- The changed nature of relationships – roles (at home, work, social settings) are now different for the woman in pain. Sometimes friendships are lost.
“I think I alienated a lot of people at work … because I was out sick so much …. and others [had to] cover for me” (Lori).
- Loss of present income and/or loss of future earning potential
- Loss of youth, healthy body functions and physical abilities, including clear thinking and intellect
- Spontaneity – Living with chronic pain is hard work and typically everything needs to be planned out in order to manage the symptoms.
- Retirement dreams
- Pleasure – Available time and effort are placed on coping so that fun is often neglected.
- Satisfying Sexual life – Low energy level and interest contribute to this loss. Also the fear of pain can contribute to lack of sexual intimacy.
- Positive future plans – often these are viewed with fear
- Self esteem
“Without question [there have been losses associated with my chronic pain]. I am not the woman I once was, I lack the stamina & strength I once had….check that…it is a DIFFERENT strength & stamina.” Connie
Third, I’ll start wherever the woman is, I don’t attempt to fix her or her relationship with God.
- When she needs to talk, I listen without judgment or interruption.
- When she wants information, I have resources to suggest (books, websites, support groups, counselor).
- When she wants me to pray and share Scripture, I am ready with personal Words applicable to her situation. Some I know from my own journey and some I learn from God as I am praying for this dear one.
- When the time is right, I share the hope and insights I’ve gained (from God) from my own grief journey.
“Remember pain eats hope so encourage hope but don’t preach (good luck).” BG
Of course, I can and do pray when I am not with the woman. I believe that the best support I can give is through prayer.
And lastly, I know there are times when I need to and should refer a woman to a professional counselor. Some things are behind my capability. And to be fair to both if us, someone more skilled than I needs to take over.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.
“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not caring, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen
Your Turn . . .
- What is your best way to help a grieving woman?
- What was the best help you received when going through a time of grief?
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- Don’t Say These 13 Things to a Grieving Person
- Grief Affects Behaviors, Feelings, Thoughts (Including Memory), & Body
- Ministering to the Chronically Ill: 20 Ways That Take 20 Minutes
- People I NEED When Life Stinks