May 03, 2013

How to Help Your Grieving Friend

I think one of the hardest things for a friend or family member of a grieving friend is simply knowing what to say or do (or not say or not do). Ours is not a culture that is comfortable with death and especially with talking about it.

I finished a book awhile back that talked a lot about Jewish custom and culture and one of the customs they mentioned is the practice of sitting shiva. Shiva is simply the Hebrew word for seven. It's the practice of friends and family members of mourning with the ones who have lost a beloved family member. For seven days there is a solemn gathering at their home. People may come and go but everyone observes this period of mourning with proper behavior and observance.

When I read it, I loved the idea of it. I loved that they so openly and unashamedly grieved and acknowledged their loss with befitting behavior and true compassion (which, in Greek, means to suffer with).

We have been so blessed to be surrounded by amazing friends and family during this time. The outpouring of love and support and prayers just blows our minds. I responded to a friend's comment on yesterday's post that in some sort of supernatural way I believe you guys are helping us bear some of this burden.

Someone suggested however that I should post the following as a helpful resource for those who are afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing. Molly Piper (daughter-in-law of John Piper) and her husband lost their daughter at 39 weeks and 4 days. Her writings have been tremendously helpful for me and she is the one who compiled the following to help others help their grieving friend. And I hope this extends far beyond us. I know we all know grieving people and I hope it helps you as much as it helped (helps) me.

I will say right away that for us it's ok to talk about our Grace with us. We want to talk about her and remember her. It will probably make me cry but that's ok. Crying is good. I promise not to use your shirt to blow my nose. I'll use your sweater instead.

Thank you for loving us so well.

How to Help Your Grieving Friend by Molly Piper

Part 1, How to Help Your Grieving Friend

Part 2, Just Know That She's Exhausted

Part 3, She's a Scatterbrain

Part 4, There is No Timetable

Part 5, She May Explode (But Probably Not)

Part 6, She Can't Grieve on Command

Part 7, Ask Her Specific Questions

Part 8, Avoid the Flippant Comfort of Hallmark Answers

Part 9, Always on My Mind

Part 10, 10 Tips for Bringing Meals to a Grieving Friend

I have to say, I almost didn't post this one because our friends have been absolutely amazing in bringing us meals and we haven't cared one tiny bit if any of the meals followed this guideline. We've just been so thankful to have one less major thing to think about a day and that people have loved us so lavishly in this way.

Part 11, Cleaning Her House is Next to Godliness

I have to say with this one too, we've been very cared for. We were selling our house in anticipation of one) moving into town, and then two) moving into town to be nearer to the hospital for her care after her birth, and then three) learning that we would be relocating to Seattle indefinitely because her cardiologist was very certain she would need a heart transplant. Obviously, we have a different ending to our story than we had planned. But that means we're still closing on our house in two weeks. Our friends and family have totally come to our aid. Bringing us boxes. Setting up a time to come clean after we're moved. Offering their basement. Helping us look for an interim place.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


  1. Molly Piper was one of the first grief bloggers that I found after our daughter's still birth. I had no idea that she was related to John Piper! Anyway, I'm glad you found her...she had some great things to share. Although of course I wish that you had no reason to go looking for such things in the first place. Hugs.

    1. I'm so sorry you lost your daughter. I wish no one ever had to experience this. I actually have read her blog for years, I just never thought I would be relating so personally. It's a very helpful resource though and I'm thankful for that.

    2. Thanks, Sara. I'm aching that you have to walk the same road, too. It's horrible and unfair and so sad. You hit the nail on the head in your last post when you said that knowing Jesus saves you from despair. I don't know how people do this without Him.

      I live in Missoula, and first connected to your blog after being invited via Facebook to donate art for Grace's fundraiser. If you ever want to chat about life after stillbirth, I'm here. And I have some babyloss resources I can recommend as well. My email is epiphanyartstudio (at) zoho (dot) com if that's something that would serve you. No pressure, though. One foot in front of the other. You're doing a great job. Praying for you and your sweet family. <3

  2. This is so helpful. Thank you for letting us all into this unique process and teaching us along the way

    1. Thank you, Carly. Enjoy your next month of freedom. :)

  3. I appreciate this too. It is really heard to know how to respond. As a friend who is not very close, I have felt so much love for you since this happened but because we have very little contact, I have you on my mind constantly, without being able to get this out my system. I pray for you, I think of you and I try to adjust to the thought of eventually seeing you (and the guilt for not being there through it all). What to do then? Maybe I will burst in tears before you even have the chance! Tears bottled since I heard the sad news. Seeing your picture with Gracie in your arms makes me want to scoop you into mine and give you all my love for you (oh boy, tears rolling right now)Maybe that's a good thing :) Crying now may help me alleviate too. I offer you my sincere love - Gabie

  4. For some reason almost every time I try to comment I can't it to work... So just know I'm reading and I am SOOOO grateful you are writing! Thank you!!! I'm so grateful to get to know how your doing and know how to pray. And in so grateful for this since I am pretty clueless on how to love through suffering