HOW TO ENCOURAGE SOMEONE FACING LOSS

After finding out about the reality of our infertility results, we drafted an email that we sent to friends and family. The goal was twofold. We wanted our network to be praying and believing with us for a miracle, but it was also a first step of “going public” with our news. We felt that if our friends would know, certain questions or comments wouldn’t be asked and/or our friends could be a help when we were struggling, so that we didn’t have to live in silence and be alone in the struggle. 

So what do you do when a friend, an acquaintance, a neighbor, or coworker is struggling with loss? Yes, we entered the arena of grieving when we found out about not being able to have children. No, we hadn’t lost a loved one, but we had lost a dream of ours and it was just as real.

Oftentimes, folks don’t know what to say when someone has experienced loss. They either ignore the topic all together with that person or they attempt to say something supportive, encouraging which typically ends up not-really encouraging. For example, saying “Cheer up! They are rejoicing in heaven” can be an accurate statement but that doesn’t help take the grief away here on earth. Though they may be in heaven, we still miss them. In the infertility arena, folks would say essentially “Cheer up! There are other options like adoption or foster care.” Though this is an accurate and factual statement it didn’t help take away the grief we were feeling.

So how do you encourage someone who is facing loss (a loved one, a pet, the death of a dream, etc)?

After we sent out that email to our close network, a pastor in Wisconsin told me that he had put us on their church staff’s permanent prayer list. From my understanding, throughout the week when they gather for prayer as a staff, they bring pressing needs but they also have permanent longstanding needs that are brought up every week until the need is met. It was such an encouragement to me that someone would view our need as something of that magnitude. I would only see this pastor every 2-3 months and for the next two and a half years, every time I saw him he would shake my hand, give me a hug, and then he let me know that their staff was still praying for us.

I can’t hold back the tears as I type this, because of how deeply impactful this was to me. Did it take away our struggles? No. But it left such an impact on my life and was such an encouragement to keep on going, keep on fighting, and keep on trusting God. Through it all, I held on to the hope and belief that I was going to be able to drive to their staff meeting someday and show them an ultrasound picture. Did it happen that way? Not yet, but he was one of the first folks that we contacted to tell him about God giving us direction to push on the door of adoption.

We don’t need fancy words. We don’t need to provide a solution. We just need to be there for those who are facing loss. We need to lift them up for the long haul.

We were encouraged by all those who said they were praying, but a mark was left on our hearts by those who, months down the road, came up and said they were still praying and still believing with us. This pastor was one of several who left a mark on us throughout this journey.

Proverbs 16:24 says “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

Be an encouragement to someone today!! You may just keep them afloat with your kind words.

~ Phil

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