Friends Don’t Let Friends Grieve Alone

Two girls walking in field

But what if you’re only acquaintances?

You’ve got your own loss to navigate.

You may not feel brave enough to reach out.

Can you defer to someone closer to the bereaved?

Maybe. Maybe not. 

Back in high school more than two decades ago, Carly and Lauren would not have referred to each other as friends. They knew of each other due to proximity. Their friendship circles did not overlap. One was more popular than the other.

Years later, as married women with kids, they connected through Facebook. From a distance, Carly and Lauren grew to know a great deal about each other’s lives through pictures and posts. More than just the highlight reels, each woman candidly shared about life’s challenges, too.

Didn’t See It Coming

One of Carly’s recent posts came as a shock to Lauren when she read it.

Carly’s husband, also her high school sweetheart, was diagnosed with cancer. At a relatively young age, they didn’t see it coming. There was only a slim chance of a recovery to health, and yet their faith was solid. Desperate for a miracle, Carly invited others on FB to boldly pray for her husband’s healing.

With great empathy, Lauren sent a private message assuring Carly of her prayers and concern.

Not long after, Carly’s husband succumbed to the cancer and died.

Heartbroken over Carly’s loss, Lauren felt a strong inclination to do something tangible. She fervently prayed for Carly and her sons but wondered what else she could do to express her empathy and care.

The Nudge

The Little Black Funeral Dress was a book Lauren had read and knew could be helpful for Carly. It had been a source of encouragement and hope for herself and others. Immediately Lauren felt God nudge her to mail a copy of the book along with a card to Carly, who lived in another city.

And yet, Lauren hesitated.

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of the kindest intentions because of fear. Fear of doing something with a level of discomfort and unpredictable results can make us stop in our tracks. Withholding kindness meant to be shared is a missed opportunity that also forfeits our joy in being the blessing. 

Limiting thoughts caused Lauren to dismiss the nudge.

“I haven’t spoken to Carly for years.”
“What if she doesn’t like the book?”
“Will she think I’m overstepping boundaries as an acquaintance?”
“What if my kindness is not well received? Is it too early?”
“I guess I can’t. I don’t have her address.”  

When the nudge persisted over several weeks, Lauren chose to defy her fears and take action.

To her surprise, the address wasn’t hard to find after all. With added encouragement from a friend, Lauren popped the book and card into the mail and chose to trust God with the outcome.

Surprised

Soon after, Lauren was pleased, although a little surprised, to receive an affirming note from Carly:

“Thank you so much for the thoughtful gift of this book. So many, many things Shirley describes in her book are exactly how I feel. I was very touched that you would even think of me.  These are the hardest and most painful days and months in my life! It’s unbearable at times. Thank you for showing such love and kindness.”  

It was only a few days ago when Lauren shared this experience with me. I appreciate her vulnerability in admitting she almost talked herself out of an opportunity to be a Hope Hero – but didn’t.

Hope Hero – someone who courageously puts aside their own discomfort and chooses to share hope through acts of empathy and compassion.  A Hope Hero cannot fix the pain of loss for another but will help to carry it.    

I’m so proud of Lauren and grateful for her willingness to share her story. Emboldened by her experience, Lauren ended her note with these words:

“I want to thank you, Shirley, for encouraging me and so many others to be a Hope Hero. God is calling us to reach out. Obedience involves saying ‘yes’ to God even when it’s hard.”  

But what if you and I can’t possibly respond to every grieving soul we know? There are so many! 

There is wisdom in Andy Stanley’s words, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.”

How can we know which one to respond to?

When we live with a prayerful expectation that God is going to use us to bring hope to someone who is grieving, the opportunities become obvious. We will not have to wait long.

When we’re in a position to offer hope by simply responding with a small gift and a card, let’s step up and do it. Defy the fear. Refuse to let limiting thoughts paralyze your acts of kindness. Be wary of paralysis by analysis. It’s possible to be thoughtful and discerning without overthinking. 

With a myriad of ways to express empathy and compassion, be encouraged to leverage your own creativity and unique ideas. In fact, I’d love to hear your stories. Please share.

How have you been a Hope Hero for someone else? I know you have, and that encourages my heart immensely. 

Be the Answer to a Prayer

You could be the answer to someone’s prayer – someone who is asking God for evidence of His love on their painful journey of loss. 

God is able to take your faithfulness as a Hope Hero to touch and inspire others to hold on to hope. With hope, it’s possible to move through grief and repurpose the pain for God’s glory. 

Cheering you on,

Shirley

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Shirley Thiessen

Shirley Thiessen

Author and speaker helping you bring hope to broken, grieving hearts.

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