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About Death and Dying. What Can You Do to Offer Encouragement?

 

  • So often people will ask me what they can do to help a friend or family member after someone dies. The answer is hard to know, but I can give you a few "ideas" of what I have learned over the years and after attending many a funeral of loved ones and friends. The list below may help you if omeone you know is dealing with the death of a loved one. Please understand these are from my own experiences an watching others so read what is said and then use what you think might help. You may even discard everything, but see if what is said brings something to mind on your own. The below list is in no special order. They are just thoughts that come to mind as a write. Again their only purpose is to give you a few ideas of what you might do or say or to help you to think of things on your own that may work in your situation. I also added a few ideas should you lose a loved one yourself.
  • The first thing you should always do is pray. Include the family every night in your prayers. Ask God to give you the words and also the compassion to know what to do and say.
  • Then "ask" the mourner what you can do. Who better to know what they need than the person going through the loss. When you talk to the person say, "What can I do to help?" Then listen to what they say.
  • Listen. Of all the things you can do I think one of the most important would be to listen. Let the mourner talk and then try to listen with the heart of Jesus. Do not judge. Do not correct or tell them they shouldn't think or feel what they are feeling. We all handle heartache different and we each have the right to get through our heartache the best way we can. Let the mourner talk through their heartache.
  • Listen. Of all the things you can do I think one of the most important would be to listen. Let the mourner talk and then try to listen with the heart of Jesus. Do not judge. Do not correct or tell them they shouldn't think or feel what they are feeling. We all handle heartache different and we each have the right to get through our heartache the best way we can. Let the mourner talk through their heartache.
  • If the mourner doesn't want to talk, then sit with them in silence. Sometime just knowing someone is there and you are not alone in your sorrow might be all that is needed to make it through the day.
  • If the mourner cries and you feel the pain of death, too, don't be afraid to show your pain with your own tears.
  • Mail a "thinking of you" card or note every week. You don't have to buy one - any little hand written note saying you are praying for them may help them know they are not alone in their heartache.
  • I think most of us are afraid to call, because we think the person might be laying down or too busy, but call anyway. Let them know ahead of time that you will be calling and that they don't have to answer the phone for whatever reason. Tell them you are calling to let them know you are praying and will be there for them if needed.
  • Go through the Bible verses I have on the Heaven's Roll Call website and write them down. You can send one Bible verse a day or every week by email as a reassurance that God loves them and is with them through the pain.
  • Send an email by itself that you are thinking of them. Reconsider sending these long emails that say if you don't forward the email that something will happen or long emails that take forever to read. It's a nice thought, but after a death there is plenty to deal with and the mourner may feel guilty if they don't reciprocate.
  • Understand that sometimes people may withdraw after a loss. I know I did, but it was because I knew I would cry and I didn't want to cry anymore. I was afraid if I started I wouldn't stop. Please don't ever think when that happens that the mourner is mad at you or that they don't appreciate everything you are trying to do to help them. It may just be a survival mode again.
  • When someone dies, everyone gathers around the family with kind words, maybe a meal and phone calls. It really helps to know people care. When everyone goes back to their life, as we all must, there is left such a void inside. Sometimes it feels like the mourner is forgotten or that everyone thinks they should move on now, too. Remember we all mourn different and the length of time varies. Stay in contact by mail, email, phone or in person.
  • The mourner may be short or crabby sometimes. Again it is because they may be so overwhelmed with their loss. Please be patient.
  • Please don't apologize if you bring up a loved one's name sometime. Their loved one's life mattered and we want to talk about them. We may cry, but it isn't because of you. It still hurts, but we like to talk about our loved one. It helps bring them back for awhile.
  • Please don't say, "I know how you feel." You may have lost a loved one, too, but you most likely didn't have the exact same relationship with your loved one nor did your loved one die in the exact same way. What you may want to say is, " I know how "I" felt after my loved one died and it really hurts. What can I do to help you?"
  • I know you mean well, but don't tell the mourner the time frame of when they should be over the death and move on with their life. We all have our own time frame of mourning, as well as, loving. Let God help the mourner and determine the mourning process.
  • Please don't tell the mourner that he/she was old and lived a long life so they should know he/she would die soon. Sometimes I think the longer a person lives, the harder it is to say goodbye. Yes, God blessed some of us with our loved one living into their 80's or even 90's giving us so many more memories that others don't have, but for that reason it may be harder to let go sometimes.
  • I would like to caution anyone on getting rid of your loved ones personal things after their death. Sometimes in order to survive financially we are forced to sell things, but if at all possible, wait. I'm not meaning to make a shrine or anything like that, but if there are things that hold happy memories or will trigger a happy time you shared, store them in a box and put them high on a shelf to look at in a year or even more. It's been 4 years already since my mom passed and I am now going through some old boxes that I had kind of forgotten about. In one I found the dress mom wore on her and dad's 50th wedding anniversary. With that I see mom's smiling face and can remember how pretty she was in it. I can even hear her laugh when I remember how much fun she had that day with the grand-kids now grown. I also found a shirt of my dad's that he loved and would wear when we were younger. His brother's would come over and they'd all play guitar and sing. It, too, brought back so many happy memories. Again what I am saying is if you can, wait to get rid of things. Too often things are given away in haste because we aren't thinking clearly only to find later that you really wish you still had it. Try to avoid any regrets. Mom always taught me, "When in doubt, do without." If you are in doubt about anything during this time, wait!
  • One thing I've learned about myself is that as an adult I know the pain of death will cease at some point and life will go on. I also know everyone will have to deal with the death of a loved one at some point in their life and that it is a normal part of this world. With that said, I learned that we all have a child inside of us. When my mom died 4 years ago this month, the adult me was okay, but it was Susie - the little girl inside of me who lost her Mommy. It's that little child inside that didn't understand why she died and would cry herself to sleep almost every night for weeks after her death. During they day the adult me would cope with her death (as an adult does), but when I got home I didn't need to be strong. I could let the child out and feel my pain of loss. Think about it for awhile and see if your child inside is the one crying for their loved one or best friend.
  • A few year before my Mom died, I saved a voice mail she had left for me on my home phone and one line said, "I love you my baby." In our parents eyes, I think we are always seen as children so in some ways that child lives inside of us until we die. That is why the adult you needs to do what you can to take care of the little person inside. When death knocks, what can you do for "you" that would help comfort that child inside? Think back to when you were young. What gave you a feeling of peace or helped you feel safe? Don't worry what the world thinks. This is about you and helping you get you through your own heartaches. I send a teddy bear to my friends, both men and women, after a death. Most of us had a teddy bear when we were young so I am taking care of the child inside each of them. I write a small note or give it them in person explaining what my purpose is. I cannot tell you how often after I have given the teddy bear that when they take it they give the bear a hug and hold it with tears falling down their faces. Maybe there is a place you used to go with your loved one that holds special memories for you. If so, go there, but take Jesus with you. My Dad and I used to eat a DQ cone after his heart attack so I will have one when the sadness comes. Do whatever you can do to take care of you and most of all - invite Jesus with.
  • Something you may want to think about for the future is to tape your loved one's voice. As I mentioned above, I saved my Mom's voicemails and can now listen to them anytime Satan starts to bring back the pain of her death... usually around her heaven's anniversary day. The sound of her voice brings her back if even for a short time and also assures me that I will see her again in heaven one day. Tape your baby's cry or your child's first few words or anything. I am so blessed to have done this even with my kids and can now bring back a memory God allowed me to share with both my Mom and my Dad. I promise you won't regret it.
  • What can you do to help the mourner - PRAY - ASK - LISTEN - UNDERSTAND - DO NOT JUDGE - BE PATIENT
 

 

 

A time to be born and a time to die.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2