3 Things to Say When Your Friend Is Grieving

As an Achiever, I like to fix things. If you bring me a problem, I move into default mode of problem solving. But sometimes, my friends don’t need me to wave a magic wand and make things better. As an Achiever, I make three mistakes in talking with my hurting friends when instead I should do these three things. Below is an apology to all my friends who have hurt and I have tried to fix.

Dear Friend,

I know that you are hurting. You are experiencing loss. Whether it is loss of freedom since you brought home a new baby, the loss of a spouse and all the goodness that came from him, the loss of a job and the security it provided, or the loss of a town you knew, you are experiencing hurt.

I don’t know about you, but loss makes me feel discombobulated, untethered and adrift. I don’t like these feelings, so I try to distance myself from them by stuffing the emotions down, choosing to see only the bright side and getting really busy…you know, the usual.

As your close, Christian friend, I will bring you a casserole. I may not be able to fill your heart to overflowing, but I can fill your belly with food.

I hope that the dinner is a help to you. However, I know I do things that aren’t so helpful. Will you forgive me when I:
1. Try to give you a reason for the chaos
2. Offer a solution
3. Share some quote/Bible verse?

Sweet friend, please forgive me. Last week as you talked about all the changes, all the hurts and all the feelings, my brain defaulted into “find-a-verse-to-comfort/explain” mode. I’m not proud of this. It’s what I have trained my brain to do. Achievers like to problem solve. My goal was to give you a solution with a pretty red bow on top.

But God (my two favorite words), is reminding me of these things, and I hope that they are helpful to you:

Hurt Happens

We know that we live in a fallen world. We know that God makes beauty from ashes. We know that He works all things together for good.

Your loss is real, and it’s possible to know truth in your soul without your brain having to catch up. Your intellect may not get it, but your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength do. Sometimes hurt is just hurt. Your pain, hurt or sadness don’t need to be explained away.

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Sitting in the Sadness Is Sacred

In the Pixar film Inside Out, the emotion-character Sadness sits next to an imaginary friend, Bing Bong, after he loses his song-powered wagon. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, look it up on Netflix…immediately. While the emotion-character Joy is trying to cheer up Bing Bong, Sadness simply sits next to him. After a good talk, a good sit and a good cry, Bing Bong gets back on track. Joy asks Sadness how she did it, and Sadness says, “He was sad, so I listened.”

So, friend, I want to sit in the sacred stillness with you, not explaining, not quoting a verse and not trying to make it right. I know that when I don’t hear God, I remember that He’s sitting silently with me. He is always present and listening, even in the stillness.

Remember That God Is God

I have a Sunday-school version of Jesus: meek, mild and clean with one lamb over His shoulder. He looks like a guy I might meet at Target. The reality is that God describes Himself as wind and fire. Those are two pretty different images from what I imagine.

The bottom line is that God is One I cannot contain, control, direct or give orders to, which makes me a bit nervous. My brain really wants to quantify Him, but it comes up short every time. I forget that sometimes the Jesus I grasp is not the Jesus who grasps me. (Thank you, Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water.)

Friend, I know that this letter doesn’t fix anything. I know that loose ends are still loose ends. In case you need permission, remember that it’s good to just sit in the tension of hurt, sadness and divine sovereignty. There is no timetable to process loss. There is only a God who is present and loves you so.

Yours in Christ,


Read more from Jill on her blog, An Achiever Goes Rogue

Jill McCormick
Jill McCormick is the writer behind "An Achiever Goes Rogue," a blog designed to help high-achieving women lean less on self and more on the God of amazing grace. Jill married her high school sweetheart 17 years ago and they have two children who were born 17 months apart. Jill loves baking and running (so that works out!) and writing about how God's grace can rescue us from a lifetime of working for our worth.

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