Three responses for a hurting friend

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Last weekend my husband and I received tragic news of a friend’s passing. It came as a shock and we quickly dissolved into tears. Though I hadn’t known him long, I thought of those who knew him deeply and those who feel this loss more intimately.

I felt confused as I thought through the pain everyone was feeling. In some ways I could relate through past experiences, yet I was reminded that I don’t have to relate or understand the complexity of emotions that come with death.

It’s situations like these that remind me to be present.

Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This verse doesn’t say anything about making sure you have a story to relate with or to provide words of wisdom in how to handle things. It simply calls us to feel what our neighbor is feeling.

Individuals and families come to The Salvation Army seeking help for difficult situations. Many have faced incomprehensible challenges leading them to this point. We’re here to offer what resources and referrals we have accessible to us, yet often we start by simply listening.

When something negative happens in someone else’s life, we should take pause and consider what will be the best way to respond. If you’re like me, you may need to ask yourself what response they need, right now, in this moment. Each reaction has its place, and when used at the wrong time, it can come off as insensitive and uncaring.

  1. Express compassion: No matter the situation, compassion is the jumping stone to any additional response. For someone going through grief, be a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. It requires vulnerability to share a personal story and ask for help. Acknowledge the individual as more than their current situation or problem.
  2. Insert a personal example: Personal examples are only helpful when the individual is seeking someone who can understand their situation in its entirety. They should be used sparingly and only if they are invited.
  3. Provide words-of-wisdom: It can be easy to chime in with personal advice. If the pain is fresh, simply be there to listen. If it’s been months or even years, pose any thoughts or suggestions delicately. Offer counsel, but be careful not to tell them what to do.

While this isn’t a comprehensive list, it’s a place to start being intentional about how you respond to a friend or family member going through a hard time. Amidst the rejoicing and the mourning, we are often challenged how we live and how we love. This means reassessing how we care for our neighbor during each stage of life.

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We are Haley and James Earley, a family of two established on October 11, 2014 in our hometown of Rochester, MN and now living in St. Paul, MN. We are dog-lovers, coffee addicts, tree-huggers, balance-seekers, community-livers, and new foster parents. We live in a house of three adults, three dogs, and our sweet foster kiddos. We desire to slow down in this fast-paced world in order to pursue intentional community as we seek after the heart of God. We're just one couple trying to figure out this whole living life thing.

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