What to Say in Times of Loss?

depression-show-you-care-400x400What is the single most helpful thing that you can say to someone who is experiencing a crisis, whether it be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the death of a dream? The best possible answer to this question is: absolutely nothing. That’s right, the best thing to say to someone who has experienced a tremendous loss is absolutely nothing. The best thing that you can do for someone who has experienced a tragic loss is to simply be present, listen and (for the most part) keep silent.

The problem is that we naturally want to fix things. So, when someone is going through a loss we are tempted to use our words to try and fix things for them. That’s why statements like, “If he’d only eaten less red meat” or “If he’d only chosen a different career” or “There must be some kind of sin that lead to this tragedy” are not only unhelpful, they are actually quite cruel things to say to people who are suffering. Those experiencing loss do not need someone to fix or analyze their loss, what they need is someone to participate with them in the loss and to walk beside them through the it.

The only exception to this rule of keeping silent in the face of loss is to ask the question, “How can I help?” The beauty of this question is that you aren’t assuming that you know how to help you’re asking for permission to be of help in whatever way you can.

There are very few guarantees in life, but one is absolutely certain: You will experience loss and you will be called to minister to those who have experienced loss. In those moments of ministry, be sure to remember that your physical presence communicates more than any words ever could.

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July 09 2012 04:00 am | Blog

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