Written by Clara Hinton
Whenever we hear the sad news that there has been the loss of a child, often our first response is asking ourselves the question, "What can I say?" We want to say something that will make a difference. We feel a need to speak words that show our friends that we truly care. Unfortunately, many times, in our zeal to say something that really helps, friends end up speaking before thinking. We blurt out well-meaning words that often hurt rather than help.
When a child dies, our thoughts seem to immediately go to God. We often call the children who have died God's little angels. And, we look to the Bible for scriptures that will help the hurting parents. In our enthusiasm to help heal the hurt, we sometimes preach a mini-sermon quoting all of the passages we know from memory.
One of the most loved and used scriptures is the one found in Romans 8:28 that tells us God works all things together for good to those who love Him. While I completely believe this to be true, and I honor God with my entire being, I also know that in the beginning stages of grief there is often anger with God for allowing such devastation as child loss to occur. It is not uncommon for a mother and father to question God's wisdom for months following the death of a child. To hear about God at a time when we are angry with Him is usually not helpful.
When my sister Carmella died at age 13, my mother went through a difficult, long journey finding her way back to God. God had allowed her daughter to suffer tremendously. God had not answered the prayers of many to heal this young child. Because of this, for a long time my mother held anger at God as part of her grief. She was not comforted by those who continued to tell her she should "rejoice in all things" and accept God's will. Child loss truly does cause a level of pain that can tear at the very foundation of a parent's faith!
There is a time to discuss at length the tremendous love of God in your attempts to say comforting words to heal a parent's brokenness over the loss of a child. But, it is also important to understand that the acceptance of those words very early in grief may not be what you expect. Anger with God is quite common, and a tremendous guilt for feeling that way accompanies the grief. Parents need to be gently reminded that one day they will not feel this anger at God.
What can I say? Most of the time, parents who are grieving appreciate help rather than words. Grocery shopping, paying bills on time, cleaning the house, and doing the laundry become overwhelming tasks following the death of a child. Help with the small everyday things speaks much louder than any words! A delicious hot meal dropped off at suppertime speaks volumes. A card that simply includes the words "I deeply care" means so much!
When you are not sure what to say, then don't. But, do pull up alongside your grieving friends and give a hug. Place fresh groceries in the refrigerator. Deliver a bouquet of flowers.
What can I say that will help? Sometimes the most comforting words are not spoken, but are heard through your actions. Continue to be a friend. That's what helps!