How Can I Help?
Last night, I received a message from a high school friend who needed some advice. She reached out to me to help her answer the question, “how do I love a grieving family?” Her son’s classmate just lost a parent, and she wanted to do something more meaningful than hit “donate” on the GoFundMe page the family set up. Giving money isn’t bad – in fact it can be very helpful for a family having to face the unexpected financial burden of a funeral or medical bills. However, sometimes donating is the easy way to love someone. We click the button, enter in an amount, say a word of prayer, and then move on in our day. Sometimes that’s all we can do, especially if we don’t know the family personally. However, we can also do more to help someone who is hurting.
As I thought about her question, I thought about my own experience as a child in a hurting family. The reason she reached out to me is because just after my second-grade year, I was that classmate who lost a parent. I reflected on what our church and family did to love us and help us during that time – and they did a lot! And then I thought about what I saw as most meaningful to me personally. I remember watering a lot of plants and flowers that people sent. So many that they covered almost every square inch of our living room. I remember people coming over to the house to visit. They probably brought food and cards, but I don’t remember that because I would usually escape to my bedroom or disappear outside. What do I remember as the most meaningful? I remember one classmate who sent me a card. A handwritten card about how her mom told her I lost my dad and she wanted to let me know that made her sad and she was thinking of me. Out of all the flowers, meals, and company – I remember one card.
Grief does strange things to our memory, so I’m confident there are meaningful gestures I don’t remember but were helpful at the time. However, the thoughtfulness of that one classmate’s card still remains with me today. Her card was written to me. Not my family – just me. That small gesture made me feel seen, understood, and loved. Her card communicated empathy.
Three Practical Ways to Help
In my reply to my friend I gave her some options of what I thought would be meaningful ways to reach out and love her son’s classmate and the whole family. I have expanded a bit on that response below. Here are three ways you can help someone who is hurting:
1. Be personal.
Communicate that you see them, even if you don’t know them that well. Jesus often stopped what he was doing to be personal and show people that he cared (Mark 5:21-43). Take the time to write that card, send the text message, make the phone call. If they don’t want to answer their phone, they won’t. They might never respond to your text or thank you for the thoughtful card, but knowing that others are thinking and praying for them is incredibly meaningful to someone who is hurting. Is there a child involved? Send them a personal card. Let them know you see them as an individual. And I’m going to throw this out there – do more than write a message on Facebook. Just a thought. Not sure what to write or what to say? Here is a great article
on writing a faith-filled sympathy card.
2. Be available. This could mean being available to meet a practical need or just to sit and listen. Grief and pain can feel very lonely. If you offer that you are available to talk, follow through with your offer. Invite them to coffee or lunch. It might feel uncomfortable, but loving others is sometimes messy and hurting people need others willing to enter the messiness with them. Pay attention to their practical needs. Ask questions (asking someone close to them is also okay and sometimes better) to find out what their needs are and then do what you can to meet them. Meals are a huge gift to someone who is hurting. Who wants to cook when you have to deal with visiting family, grieving a loss, or wading through a medical crisis? Better yet, bring them an ice chest full of freezer meals. They don’t have a freezer? Buy them one! Organize a meal train. Clean their house. I remember the year after my dad died a few of my mom’s coworkers went in and paid for a housecleaning service for my mom for one year. What a gift! Be available to meet practical and emotional needs.
3. Provide a resource. Sometimes you aren’t equipped to fully meet all their needs. We have resources for hurting people at Bethel and in the community. Here are just a few of them:
Bethel has a network of local, Christian counselors, many of whom specialize in grief and loss. You can see the list here
. Bethel can also provide financial assistance to Bethel families to see a counselor in our network. You can email us
for more information.
We have a team of trained peers who provide one-to-one Christian care to individuals who are hurting. They are able to listen, pray for, and encourage those who are going through difficult experiences. To learn more about Stephen’s Ministry, check out this page
or contact us
Our Healing & Recovery ministry has several groups that provide support for grief, mental health challenges, cancer, chronic pain, and divorce, as well as healing groups for working through past experiences and wounds. These groups are open to anyone. You can learn more here
or email us
There are other organizations in our community who provide programs and services for hurting individuals. The Chaplaincy
provides hospice care and grief support and have an excellent grief program for children. Good Samaritan Ministries provides free, Christ-centered peer counseling services (email them
for more information). Bethel has an assistance ministry
(BAM) for individuals who have financial needs. Not sure what else might be available? Call 2-1-1 and ask about local services or email us
and we can help point you in the right direction.
Reaching out to people who are hurting isn’t easy. Entering into someone’s grief or pain gets messy and can be uncomfortable. But we are called to be ministers of the gospel and ambassadors of Christ. The Bible says that just as Christ has comforted us, so we can comfort others (2 Cor 1:4). Be encouraged. Take a step of faith and find a meaningful way to help someone who is hurting. I can tell you from personal experience, it will not be forgotten.