8 Ways To Help People Grieve

Posted By: Andrew Mason

Helping People Grieve


Sometimes as faith-filled believers we can be horrible at letting people grieve. When a person loses a relationship, or a job, or has someone close to them pass away it starts a chain reaction of heavy emotions that can be difficult to process. Any situation that creates a sense of loss also creates the need for people to grieve. If we’re not careful, we can be tempted to immediately jump in with clichés and all the perfect scriptures to tell people how they should feel and what they should do. This is not helpful.

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve actually had several people in our small group experience the death of a family member. As a Small Group Leader I want to ask you: Are you equipped to minister to a member of your small group in this situation? What do you say? What do you do?

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, A time to mourn and a time to dance…”  Romans 12:15 says that we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” Those aren’t scripture verses to quote to people who are grieving, rather they are a guide for us who are near them. Below are 8 Ways To Help People Grieve as a Small Group Leader…

 1. Understand the Stages of Grief – It’s common for people suffering loss to experience these stages. They won’t necessarily go through them in order and often people will repeat different stages. The 5 Stages of Grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Each of them are healthy to processing some form of loss. Sometimes we can be comforting someone while we too are impacted by the same loss. Understanding these for ourselves and others can equip us to navigate such times.

2. Be the Initiator – Some people naturally reach out to those close to them, but many don’t. If you know a person is isolating themselves, initiate the contact with them to give opportunity for discussion. This also lets them know someone cares.

3. Listen, Listen and Listen – More than anything, people need someone who will listen and allow them to express what they are feeling inside. Great listeners can be great ministers. The more people can process this way the greater chance they have not to get stuck on one of the stages for long periods of time.

4. Don’t Judge Their Raw Emotions – Repeat after me: Let them grieve.

5. Provide Care – Sometimes it helps just to be present. In other situations it’s helpful to organize meals for the person in need. Ask your small group to see who would be interested in helping. If you’re not sure what to do simply ask the person what they need.

6. Continue To Check In On Them – Once the initial outpouring of love runs it’s course, everyone moves on with their lives and generally forget to follow-up in the future weeks and months. Be the person that does follow-up. Your thoughtfulness will communicate the kind of love that will be appreciated.

7. Be Patient – It may take longer for a person to grieve than you or even they themselves expect. Allow them to feel their feelings are still valid even if it’s been some time.

8. Approach Each Person Individually – If you’ve helped people grieve in the past, try not to develop a cookie-cutter approach for the next person. Every person and every situation is unique and requires sensitivity to the specific needs that are there. Make sure you respond to different people differently.

Remember, loss is one of the most difficult things for people to process. As a Small Group Leader, you and your small group are strategically positioned to play a vital role in supporting someone when they need it most.

Photo Credit: NeilsPhotography

Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason is the Small Groups Pastor of Real Life Church, a family of churches in the Nor. CA region. He oversees Small Groups and Assimilation. He is Founder of SmallGroupChurches.com, an online community of leaders dedicated to growing churches one small group at a time. Andrew resides in Sacramento, CA with his wife Camille and their two sons.

2 Responses

  1. Andrew Mason Andrew Mason says:

    Thanks Victor! Your feedback on this means a lot given your career and education.

  2. I was led to re-read this article on how to help a grieving person written by Pastor Andrew. I just wanted to add that a grieving person can tell whether someone who is listening to him or her is genuine and sincere or whether that person is just putting in the time to listen to them because it is the Christian thing to do. A person needs to be compassionate when listening to a hurting person. That means that they need to show genuine concern and interest that comes from the heart.

    Compassion, in my opinion, can’t be taught, but it is learned through personal experience. If you’ve been devastated emotionally and were successful in working through the pain through someone’s help, you will be able to help a hurting person because you will be able to identify with their pain.

    If you tend to live in your head, which most men do, then, you will be limited in how you can help that hurting individual. The hurting person desperately needs a heart connection. You can know all the above steps and apply them, but if a truly loving heart is missing, you are just going through the motions and your impact on this grieving individual will be very limited.

    You need to know ahead of time that it will take some of your valuable time to truly help someone and perhaps connect him with the proper resources. Don’t try to rush him through the grieving process, especially if you’re in a hurry, because this person will be able to tell. Be committed to give some of your time to a hurting person, but I promise you that you will not be disappointed because God will bless you for reaching out with sincerity because it is the heart of the Gospel to love others as Jesus loves us. Once again, you did an excellent job in writing this article, Pastor Andrew.

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