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Sadness in the Season of Gladness

It’s a happy time of year. A time to be joyous. A time for parties and fun events. But I’m listening to a sad story. A young woman died in an instant. A bone got stuck in her throat. A stupid, senseless, useless death.

crying-womanA mom is in shock. She can’t believe what has happened. People come to pay respects.  They bring food. They shed tears. They embrace. They offer their deepest sympathies. They ask if there’s anything they can do. But they all know that the one thing they wish they could do, they can’t.

And then one visitor utters the words that make mom cringe. He holds her hand tight as he reassures her that “Everything happens for a reason.”

“What reason could there possibly be,” she retorts, as she pulls away from him. He responds in a gentle voice, “You will grow from this. You will find God’s meaning. You’ll see.” This man thinks he is being helpful. He knows not that his words cut rather than cure, hurt rather than heal. He is not a mean man; he is an ignorant one.

When loved ones are in pain, we don’t know what to do. We feel obliged to say something. Hence, platitudes spill out of our mouths, masquerading as precious wisdom. We offer advice. We tell them that it will be all right. We tell them what God wants.

So, what should we do if platitudes don’t work? What do we say to hide our discomfort in these helpless situations? Avoid the situation all together? No!

Simply, allow your loved one to grieve. In her way. On her timetable. Let her talk. Or not talk. Let her cry. Or not cry. Let her howl in despair. Or not howl. Let her hate God. Or love God. Or not believe in God.

When a life has been shattered, do not try to make things better. Many losses cannot be made better. They cannot be understood. They cannot even be accepted. Especially, if it is a loss of a child. Your child is your future. This should never have happened!!!

So, how can you be helpful? Simply be there. Be fully present when she needs to rant. Or, cry. Or, be silent. Be there, when she’s in despair. Or, feeling better. And when she wants to be alone, let her be alone. But reassure her that, even in her aloneness, you are holding her in your heart.

head-in-handGrieving is a necessary process. It must happen before one can heal or move on. Sounds simple enough. But we are an impatient society. We want people to get over even their deepest losses way too soon. We don’t appreciate that cutting the grieving process short can curtail the healing process. Nor do we acknowledge that grieving may never be completely over.

So, if you wish to be helpful to a person devastated by grief, avoid giving advice. Instead, simply be there in the moment. And if you feel uncomfortable not doing anything, remind yourself this is not about doing. It’s about being there at a time when your loved one needs you.


This article was inspired by the writing of Tim J. Lawrence, who blogs at The Adversity Within. For more information about Tim, go to

“The reality is you will grieve forever.

You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn o live with it.

You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered.”

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

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