It comes in many forms. A card in the mail letting a friend know you were thinking about her, an email saying that you thought of her today, or even a phone call out of the blue to catch up on what is happening in your friend's life. Anyway that you do it, encouragement in any form is something that we all need.
For a person who is grieving, encouragement cannot come too often. As a matter of fact, to a grieving person, encouragement is what really helps to get through those lonely times and gives a reason to hope again when tragic events can lead to despair.
In the dictionary, encouragement is defined as inspiring someone with courage or confidence, to support and promote optimism. I often wonder if I do enough of this when my friends are going through a difficult time. Do I call when I know that they have lost someone or something like a job? Do I REALLY pray for them like I say I will? Do I do what I can to support them even though it is hard and might take me out of my comfort zone? I want to be able to answer yes to these questions.
Wanting to be encouraged myself by my friends and family reminds me of a time when Jesus also needed & was so desperately wanting his friends to be there for him.
Jesus went to Gethsemane with his disciples. He wanted them to stay there with him while he prayed about the fact that he was going to die soon. He was completely overwhelmed to the point of utter despair and asked God if it could be possible for him to not have to go through it and take this circumstance away from him. But he then said "Not as I will, but as you will" When he went back to his friends, he found them asleep three different times.
I can't help thinking how sad & completely alone Jesus must have felt. Wanting his friends there for him, but finding them asleep not once but 3 different times after he went to them for support. I also can't help but wonder how the disciples felt too. Wanting to help Jesus, but not being there for him in the way he needed. They must have felt helpless, both Jesus and the disciples. I wonder if Jesus told them exactly what he wanted.
For a person who is grieving, telling friends & family exactly what they need is complicated & very challenging. I can only speak for myself, b/c everyone grieves in completely unique & different ways. For me, I get asked many questions like:
Is there anything I can do?
Is there anything you need?
What can I do to help?
Call me if you need anything ok?
I'm here for you if you need me ok?
I know that these questions are completely from the heart and do show care & concern for me. It gives me so much MORE to think about on top of everything else already in my FULL head. Like figuring out how do I call my friends and say that what I REALLY need is for you to bring up the subject of Caden so that I know it is ok to talk about what he meant to me. Most of the time I chicken out from calling not wanting to be an added burden to the already busy lives that we all have. I have thought about writing down some helpful & not so helpful things to do for someone who is grieving. While all people who are dealing w/grief take their own time & ways to handle grief, here are some things that I have found that have helped me. I will preface it by saying that not ALL things work ALL the time, but every little bit of encouragement & support gives those of us who are grieving hope.
Ways To Encourage & Support A Grieving Friend
~Sending cards is always good; especially after much time has passed and they
are not getting notes or things in the mail anymore.
~Emails while sometimes impersonal, can be a pleasant surprise & thoughtful
~Instead of asking for the griever to call if they need anything--chances are
they more than likely will not call b/c they don't want to be a burden; tell
your grieving friend that you will call him/her on a certain day at a certain
time. This gives your friend something to look forward to.
~Invite your friend to take a walk or go somewhere w/you. Give them a specific
day & time. Allow them to talk about their grief, joys, or anything else w/out
~Mention the name of the person they have lost. You may think that it will
only make them sad, but chances are they were sad anyway & saying their loved
one's name lets your friend know that their loved one mattered and they were important.
~Some things that can be helpful are:
*Invite your friend to watch a movie, go out for coffee, or anything cheap
*Ask your friend to go w/you to run and errand
*Cook a meal together at your house or theirs
*Bring a meal or just dessert to your friend for no reason at all
*Set up a time to workout or exercise w/your friend
*Invite yourself to your friend's house to just hang out w/them for no reason
Many things you do will help. Just make sure not to leave the planning up to your grieving friend. They already have SO much on their plate to have to try to remember to plan things isn't always helpful.
I hope all of this information proves helpful. For me the thought no matter how big or small is what matters most. It makes me feel ok to be this new self I am trying to get used to & not like I am annoying anyone w/ the emotions and time that grief takes.
I leave you with a verse that has come to mean a lot to me.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the day approaching.