Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hugs for friends......

I have a friend battling cancer.
I have a friend whose bed-ridden husband has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and won't live much longer. They've been married for 60+ years!!!***
I have a friend whose five babies ALL have ear infections.
I have a friend whose grandbaby is sick and a friend whose preemie baby now finally weighs three pounds and twelve ounces, was born at 21 weeks, and is now showing signs of improvement daily.
Another friend faces surgery next and several who live daily with pain. There, of course, are those that I don't even know about who have concerns that internally tear them apart, that experience nausea or headaches because of the stress of life. There are those who've lost jobs and don't know where the cost of living is going to come from. Life can be so overwhelming.

Why am I telling you all this? After I reread my post from yesterday I felt compelled to DO something about these things. But what do you say to people who face hardship, who daily live with the fact that their lives might not be as long as they expected? What does one say to comfort someone who lives in constant pain? Wouldn't it just be easier to say nothing, to avoid that awkward moment in time when words don't really say much......they sound empty, they sound trite, they sound like you really know what they are enduring? And while I want to say the right thing, sometimes it is as awkward as all get out.

So I thought I'd just give us all a little reminder about ways we CAN make a difference. In doing a little research, I came up with this list (and there are others out there if you just search google)
for some do's and don'ts....


Act natural. I know you may not feel comfortable but the more uncomfortable you are the harder it is on the grieving individual.

Allow the person to talk about his grief and express his or her feelings. Try to listen without offering advice or interrupting. The worse thing you can do is start talking about yourself. Focus on LISTENING and offer your love patiently and unconditionally.

Be patient with the grieving person's changing moods. It’s normal for someone who is grieving to alternate between anger, sadness, numbness and acceptance.” Give the person as much time as he or she needs to grieve. There is no time limit on grieving and telling him or her to 'get over it' or 'let it go' won't help him or her grieve any faster.

Show genuine concern and affection if the person seems open to it. Try offering hugs or an arm around the shoulder, as appropriate. If he or she seems uninterested or irritated don’t take it personally, it is a natural part of the grieving process.

Sometimes silence is what the grieving person wants. There is so much going on that a moment of peace and quiet can be the one thing they need. Sitting silently next to him or her and just being close can be very comforting.

Offer to help but be specific. It can seem overwhelming and stressful to have people keep asking what can I do to help you. When you are grieving you may have no idea what would be helpful or not. Because grief can be a confusing and overwhelming experience, suggest something specific. It is hard for many people to ask for help.

Be the one who takes the initiative to:

  • Call from time to time and just to check in
  • Offer to run errands or get groceries
  • Drop off food don’t wait to be asked
  • Stop by and baby-sit the kids
  • Offer to go along to a bereavement group with them
  • Go for walks or enjoy a physical activity
  • Do a fun activity with them that you know they really enjoy maybe a game or going to the movies
  • Encourage socializing but only when the person feels ready

Keep in mind how difficult holidays and weekends can be for them. Try to be available for support or just spending time with them on these days.

If you recognize that the grieving person is experiencing depression, urge him or her to get professional help. This is only if they seem unable to function in day-to-day life. You may want to help them set up the appointment and if they ask, go with them.

If you haven't already you may want to send some Flowers and a card it may seem like a small gesture on your part but it really means a lot to the person grieving.


Try to avoid the bereaved person. It only makes them feel more isolated and alone. This is a time that they need all the love and support you can muster. Try to put your personal discomfort aside and think about the other person.

Pry into personal matters. Allow the grieving person to share what they choose to and just be there to support them. You can ask questions but think before you talk!

Ask questions about the circumstances of the death. Talk openly about the person who passed but not necessarily the circumstances unless they bring it up.


  • "I know how you feel." Truthfully, you don’t know how they feel no one does whether you have been through a loss before or not! Don’t be surprised if the turn around and scream, “YOU don’t know how I feel, no one knows how bad I feel!”

  • “You should.” or “Time heals all wounds.” offering advice or quick solutions just ends up frustrating and upsetting the grieving person.

  • “At least he’s no longer in pain.” or “She’s in a better place now.” Or “It was God’s timing/will.” Trying to cheer the person up or distract from the emotional intensity only helps to prolong the grieving process and may even alienate them from you.

  • “Oh, it’s not that bad.” Or “You’ll be ok.” Or “Things will go back to normal before you know it.” Or “It will get better." Grieving people know this intellectually, but in their heart, they may feel so lost and alone. These statements tend to minimize the loss and could upset the grieving person and they may even feel frustrated and angry with you.

  • "Just call me if there is anything I can do." In the midst of grief, you just can’t think straight and you have no idea what you need. It’s up to you to call and if the grieving person does not want to speak with anyone, he or she will not answer the phone. If they don’t answer, the phone just leave a supportive message and let them know you are thinking about them

  • "Don't cry." It is uncomfortable and painful to see someone you care about cry but telling him or her not to cry only prolongs the process and does not support the natural grieving process that needs to occur.


  • I am sorry
  • Tell me how I can help; I want to be here for you.
  • ___________ was a good person and friend of mine. I will miss him or her.
  • Would you like a hug?
  • Please tell me what you are feeling right now, I have never been through something like this and can only imagine.
  • It's ok if you do not feel like talking right now. Just know that I am here to listen whenever you are ready.
  • “I love you” (if you are close enough)
  • talk openly and directly about the person who died
Many of these apply to the grieving process of dealing with death, but when tweaked just a little, apply as well to the grief process of dealing with changes in life, ie, a change in income, short term health, hardship, depression, life struggles.
Remind them often that God has not left them, and that you will continue to pray for them. Offer to take them somewhere, even if just out for a Sonic drink, or to a nearby mall. Stop by with a casserole or a bucket of chicken. Write notes, (remember you only have to write a few lines to let them know you are thinking of them) send pictures, have the children make artwork to share with the shut-ins..., etc.
Please tell me what comes to mind that you can do; leave a message in the comments and let's encourage one another to be a balm to the hurting, a haven of rest for the weary. So leave a comment and tell me and the other readers what YOU do.

and if you are one who is hurting , please let this be a hug to you, and a realization that you are not alone.

*Edited to add, thanks to Lisa's comment, of course we can pray with those hurting and that is a soothing balm in itself! thanks, Lisa!
***this evening I learned that Mr. Sam went home to be with the Lord....please would you pray for their family? thanks!


Stacey said...

Excellent post girl! Thanks for doing the research. Some people just seem to very naturally know what to do in trying circumstances. Others (like me) feel awkward. I will probably refer back to this info again.

Carol said...

Thanks so much for posting such a thoughtful & useful post. It's always hard for me to know what to do or say when someone is facing a difficult time.


April said...

What a great post, Suzanne, and definitely something we all need to keep in mind when dealing with those around us who are hurting.

Robin said...

I couldn't have said it better myself! Such a fantastic post!


Robin :o)

C Maisy said...

thanks for the information!!!!!!
i'm so sorry that so many people are suffering around you~ i will say lots of prayers :)

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Wonderful, well-written post! You should submit that to a magazine. :)

Sheila said...

What a perfect post !
Just so down to earth, point blank, and soothing from top to bottom !
Lost my sweet hubby/best-friend 24+mos ago, and all of your 'DON'T SAY', well, I can chuckle now, as I've been blessed not to hear or see any of them for over a year, but they were all said to me by about 6 people & 4 were relatives !
It was the staff at our favourite, closeby drugstore & grocery store, neighbours in our building, who said the 'Do Say' that soothed.

Oh, Praise be to our Lord, as He's never left my side !!

Lisa said...

Such great advice Suzanne! And let's remember to PRAY for people going through storms. We may not say or do the right thing but we can always pray . And prayer doesn't just change things ...it changes everything!

Becca said...

I LOVE this post! I found you through MckMama and wanted you to know I'm lifting up your requests and friends!

Domestic Designer said...

I will pray for your friend and her family at this difficult time! Thanks for a great post.

jenjen said...

What a great post Suzanne. I have a friend who is battling metastasized breast cancer (she's 40) and is having a horrible time. I think about her everyday but didn't know what to do to help her. I ended up going over and helping her make some jewelry one day. She just needed me to act normally. To treat her like I did before she got sick. I think it's hard for people to know ho to act. What a great thing to put together to help people treat each other with kindness. Thanks so much!


Controlling My Chaos said...

Thanks for the reminder. This was a good post, Suzanne.

Kasey said...

wonderful post.
I do believe people really don't know what to say or do in a situation like this.
thanks for sharing...

cheeky chums said...

we hope you can find comfort in the practical side that people can offer you intimes of trouble. you may find this site useful for bereaved families of tiny little ones at http://prematurebab.com and the premature baby store plus more http://cheekychumsonline.co.uk

Bee said...

It was all great advice, but I particularly liked the "Don'ts." I was a Hospice nurse for 14 years and was amazed at some of things people would say to one who was grieving.

Just being there and listening is always a good thing to do.

elizabeth said...

This is why I love reading blogs - I can learn so much. Thank you for this great post.

Tonya said...

WOW! That was an AWESOME post! After losing our son.. we've found that our friends almost seem to think we should be over it. Now, we ARE MUCH BETTER.. we DO HAVE the "JOY OF THE LORD for our STRENGTH".. but it NEVER stops hurting and we NEVER stop missing him. (Even after 2 years)

Your advice is/was EXCELLENT! It is WONDERFUL to know that people still remember the loved one that's not here anymore and it feels GREAT to have someone to talk to. (Someone who doesn't look as though they want to turn and run because we brought up our son.. AGAIN)


Now, on another note...

It was a JOY to meet you. I wanted to say THANKS for registering for my bloggy giveaway. I'm sorry it's taken so long to get over here and respond to your comment. I've had my blog made over and had been spending MOST of my spare time looking at design kits.

Now, with THAT said, I'll be giving away a blog makeover in October. Danielle, the lady that did my makeover, will be designing the winner's blog. (I want to celebrate my son's life by doing what he loved most - BLESSING OTHERS) ☺ His birthday is/was October 28 and that's when I'll officially hold my drawing. If you're interested.. hop over again in October and get your name in the hat. ;-)

It's been such a pleasure to meet you! Thanks again for stopping by my blog! ☺

Sara's Sweet Surprise said...

These were wonderful suggestions for anyone you encounter that is healing.
I've learned the grieving process is very personal and will run it's own course. My frustration is when there's an imposed time limit to someone grieving. It is not possible to know how long it will take an individual to grieve a loss.
I think your advice applies to those who have lost a pet as well.
Most pet owners love their pets like family, I know I do.

Sweet wishes,

Miss Janice said...

We all need to be reminded of these things from time to time! Oh, to be able to say and do the "perfect thing" at the right time:) Prayers are lifted up for "Mr. Sam's" family and friends!