Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Not to Say to Widows

Sometimes people ask me what they can say to their widowed friends.

Let's start with the "what NOT to say" answer. I heard this in church a while back and my heart responded "So true! So true!"
In the story of the blind man in John 9:1-17 the Pharisees ask the wrong question: who sinned that this man was born blind? In other words they asked why did this happen?

Asking Why? or worse yet Who sinned? are the worst things you can say when people are suffering--whether that person is yourself or another. If you're going to ask this question--well, you may as well just get out a whip. Same thing.

God hasn't revealed the "why" to suffering except that we live in a fallen world.
You know this is true. Just look at the book of Job: God devoted an entire book proving how useless man's efforts are when trying to explain suffering.
There is no answer worthy of suffering except that Jesus died to save us. His death is the only death that can bring comfort. Through Christ's death on the cross He conquered death through his resurrection, and offers eternal life to us through faith. That's the only time death made any sense or brought any comfort.

And then there are those who think our suffering is due to lack of faith. If we had "enough" faith we could move mountains. My husband Tom got this pitch when his wife Marilyn was dying of cancer. They could "overcome with enough faith." Ha! There are many things on earth that faith overcomes, but what God allows is not one of them: we all have our appointed day.
So what can you say to someone who's suffering?

Platitudes and cliches will sting when grief is raw. Unless you have the sort of relationship that has earned you the right to be heard, you don't need to say anything. Just be there. Weep with those who weep. Don't even tell them you'll pray for them. Just pray for them--later on you can tell them you are still praying. One woman I met for the first time months after Bruce's funeral told me she had prayed for me every day since she heard Bruce died. I was amazed at her compassion and appreciated her gift to me of taking the time to pray for me. Try doing that for people you know who are suffering.
The best way to say you care is with your deeds and help and friendship. Show that you care in practical and appropriate, need-meeting ways--pay their utility bills anonymously or buy them gift cards to the stores where they shop. Phone them. Invite them to dinner, take them to a movie. . . Don't ignore your widowed friends or act like it never happened.

Real compassion = time + commitment

What would you tell someone who wanted to know what to say to someone who's grieving? I'd love to hear from you and I'll post your comments as soon as possible.


  1. Knowing now what I didn't know then, I would say to those who wish to minister. "Just be with me, give me a warm hug, please no cliches, advice or motivational quotes, I'm hurting, vulnerable and can only process the present moment I am living in". Then in a couple days a week or so please give me a call or drop by just to say hi. A nice casserole would be up lifting with a big hug..... I would so have loved a hug...they all seem to stop after my husband's passing.
    And then if it's not asking too much... in a month or so send me a card and let me know you're praying for me and thinking about me. All of these caring gesture's will really lighten a heavy load. ~ Nothing is ever wasted if it is done with love ~

    1. Beautifully stated. It is a heavy load and a hug goes a long way... I appreciate your kind and thoughtful suggestions and how lovingly you put them. ((Hug))

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  3. Wise words, Swans Forever. I know they've been hard won, and will touch people with their truth.

  4. Job's friends saw his grief was so great they stood afar off and spoke not a word. For Job's sake it would have been better if they remained afar off and said not a word. Job called them miserable comforter's for when they did speak it was judgmental filled with accusations.
    Our grief is one of the greatest trials and forms of suffering imaginable and during and through this trial (only) the Lord can truly sustain us. Only he can help us, hear us, hold us and hug us.

    It is through this time we are stripped from outside sources and in desperation cry out to him. For he is the God of all comfort, mercy and compassion .
    The beautiful thing about Job was - - in the end it radiates the love and beauty of God as he restores Job's life once again to completeness, blessings and fullness.
    God's grace, mercy and love to Job goes beyond his dreams and imaginations. I've never thought of suffering as an honor but scriptures teach us it is a high calling. However if given the choice there are other ways I would choose to glorify God.

    But even if I don' t understand it I sincerely believe ALL things are working for the good of those who love and belong to God. :-)

  5. The best thing a friend can say (ask) one that has lost their love is: Can I pick you up and go lets have lunch together? That's it!

    1. Agreed! Such a seemingly simple lunch together meets many levels of need. Thank you and everyone for these helpful suggestions and insights. Loved the thoughts on Job too.


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