How do you help or encourage someone who has suffered a loss? Sometimes it’s incredibly simple. Our daughter Michelle died when she was a week old. People responded in many ways, but four simple things people did brought profound comfort in that difficult time.
1. They showed up. It was around 5 p.m. and Laurel was still in labor. Our OB came into the labor room and said, “There’s someone out in the waiting room who wants to see you.” I went out to the waiting room and four people from our church were standing there. They had driven 50 miles just so they could hug me and tell me they were praying for us and that they cared.
2. He called. That same evening, I got a telephone call from my best friend Ralph. This was long before the days of cell phones. To this day I have no idea how he tracked me down or managed to get a call through to me. I don’t even remember what we talked about. All I remember is that he called.
3. He mowed our grass. On Wednesday, I came home to get things ready to bring Laurel and Michelle home. (Beyond our wildest dreams, she survived long enough for us to bring her home—but that’s for a different post.) When I pulled into our driveway I noticed that Roger, our next-door neighbor, had mowed our lawn and a left us a gallon of blackberries from his beautifully-cultivated bushes. I remember his act of kindness as if it happened yesterday.
4. He took me out for coffee. We had Michelle at home from Thursday through Monday. By Saturday, I was exhausted and stressed. My friend Ralph dropped by that Saturday afternoon and took me out for coffee. I don’t remember what we talked about. I do remember that in the midst of my grief, my friend helped bring a little normalcy to my life that day.
Do something kind. In the midst of crushing grief, four simple things people did made an indelible impact on me. Nothing special. Just routine acts of kindness. But in 30 years, I’ve never forgotten them. Do you want to help someone who’s grieving? Don’t try to find the “right words” of comfort. Do something nice for them.
They’ll never forget it.
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