Thursday, June 27, 2024

Walking with a Friend Through Stormy Days


After my husband’s funeral, my sister asked, “What should I say to a grieving friend?”

“As little as possible,” I replied.

Many friends shared meaningful condolences at Ed’s funeral, but I’d already heard the common Scriptures and platitudes during his two-year cancer journey. I wasn’t in the mood to hear more. What meant the most was the presence of friends.

We long to take away a friend’s pain, but nothing we can say can make it better. Sometimes my attempts result in bumbling words that sound coarse or ridiculous. Other times I may ignore a friend’s hurt because I don’t know what to say. But turning a blind eye to pain is even worse than saying the wrong thing.

Here are some things I’m learning about supporting a friend—whether at a viewing, in a hospital room, or in a sympathy card.

What To Say:

I am sorry.”

Don’t pretend it isn’t awful and attempt to sugar coat their grief. Acknowledge their loss is devastatingly terrible, and you wish it were different.

I’m praying.”

If it is true, there are no better words. I often didn’t feel capable of praying, and was relieved to know others were praying.

Consider praying out loud. One friend asked if she could pray for me at the viewing. You can pray on the phone, in a text message, or in a card.

We often forget to continue to pray for ongoing grief. I cried when a lady I barely knew told me I was still on her prayer list, three years after Ed’s funeral.

I remember…”

Some of the most meaningful words spoken to me after Ed’s death were memories of Ed, especially ways Ed had blessed their lives. Most people want to talk about their loved one, so don’t avoid using their name in conversation. I also loved when friends wrote down memories for me to reread later.

What NOT To Say:

At least…”

We all want to look on the bright side and count the blessings. “At least it is treatable.” “At least he didn’t have to suffer long.” “At least you had twenty years together.” “At least he is in a better place.” Those things may be true, and some day your friend may see the blessings, but saying “at least” can minimize their pain or shame their current state of grief.

God has a plan.”

When faced with a tragedy, we want some higher purpose. Acknowledge that evil brought suffering to the world, and, though God can redeem our suffering, He didn’t create a world with accidents, cancer, and death.

All things work together for good.”

We love stories of how God took something terrible and brought about good through it, such as Joseph, Elisabeth Elliot, and Corrie ten Boon. But when your friend’s life has crumbled, quoting verses like these can also feel cold and heartless. I preferred verses that acknowledged grief such as “God is near to the brokenhearted.”

God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

The Bible shares stories of humanly impossible situations such as Gideon, David, and Elijah. Cancer, widowhood, and solo parenting were my Goliaths, and I needed assurance that God would walk with me through events I couldn’t handle alone.

You are so strong.”

I was glad I didn’t fall apart at Ed’s cancer diagnosis, but I didn’t have a choice. I had to care for my six children even when I felt like staying in bed. When told I was strong, I couldn’t be honest about how weak I felt. Your friend doesn’t need more pressure to pretend she is capable.

Have you tried . . .”

Of course you want your friend to find a cure, but please don’t give health advice unless you are asked. If you had the exact same diagnosis and have personal experience that may be helpful, share the information with a family member (not the sick person themselves). Then support whatever decision they make.

What To Do:

Be Present

One of my friends said she didn’t know what to do or say because she had never experienced deep grief. But when we were sitting by Ed’s bedside on the last week of his life, she stopped in several times and gave the gift of presence.


Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, even knowing Lazarus’ death would lead to resurrection and God’s glory. Never underestimate the value of shutting your mouth and weeping with those who weep. After Ed’s diagnosis, I had friends call on the phone who were unable to speak through their tears. Not everyone is a crier—I’m not—but at Ed’s viewing, I valued tears more than words.

Ask thoughtful questions

Asking, “How are you doing?” is better than ignoring their pain, but consider asking specific questions such as, “What is the hardest adjustment of losing your husband?” “How are you sleeping?” “What worries do you have?” “What do you miss most about your mom?”

Not everyone is comfortable sharing deeply, but many long for a trustworthy friend who is willing to truly listen. These aren’t questions to be asked flippantly when walking out of church. Choose the right time, the right place, and the right words.


When friends asked if we needed meals or other help, I often declined. I was either too proud or bull-headed to accept help. But thankfully, friends still brought food, sent checks, and helped in many practical ways. I don’t know how we would have survived without casseroles in our freezer and financial help.

A widow’s need for casseroles may abate, but the practical needs around the house might grow in upcoming years. One of my widow friends appreciates toolbox-toting friends who offer help with minor house repairs.

Walking with a grieving friend can and should look differently for each person, but if you share tears, a hug, and prayer, your friend will feel loved, even if you don’t know what to say.


This post was shared first in Commonplace: In the Company of Friends, published by Daughters of Promise Ministry

I'd love to hear how friends walked with you in your stormy days.

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Sisters' Spring Reading Challenge Report

 Our spring reading was so fun! I loved how the duet challenges pushed me to look at books in a new way. 

This post contains affiliate links.

1. Duet Challenge: Read two books that are by the same author but in a different genre. 

Charity - Andrew Peterson - The God of the Garden and On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

In The God of the Garden, Peterson explores beauty, home, trees, and poetry in this well-written collection of thoughts. It filled me with the longing to dig deep into the earth around my home and create. The second book is a totally different genre and target audience. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a middle-grade fantasy novel, the first in a series of four. I loved the theme of the battle between good and evil and the way he threw humor in to make the reader chuckle. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series.

 A few years ago, a friend introduced me to Luci Shaw's poetry. I love how her words drew me to God and the beauty of His creation. But I didn't know until recently that Luci also wrote nonfiction. God in the Dark is compiled from her journals over her husband's cancer journey and her first year as a widow. I related so much to her words. Life Path shares the value that Luci found in journal keeping. The Green Earth is a compilation of poetry, organized by season. All three of these books were much different from the others, but each celebrated the beauty of words and the presence of God.

2. Duet Challenge: Read two books connected to the same author.

Charity - Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Truth and Beauty by Andrew Klavan, and The Chid from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge

Reading the well-known and often-referenced Paradise Lost (I’ve only read part of it so far…) has made me so excited. I find it mentioned by so many authors and speakers. Klavan’s book about the Sermon on the Mount and England’s poets, mentioned Milton and I was so pleased to understand the references more fully. The Child from the Sea is an historical novel about the secret wife of Charles ll and spends much time talking about the English civil war. Milton also was living at this time and supported Oliver Cromwell. Reading several books that connected in some way was fascinating.

Gina - Jane and Dorothy by Marian Veevers and Darcy's Story by Janet Alymer

This winter I finished reading through all of Jane Austen's novels and I wanted to learn more about Austen. Jane and Dorothy compares and contrasts the lives of Jane Austen and Dorothy Wordsworth and their contribution to literature. I knew almost nothing about Georgian England in which these two ladies lived. The author delves deeply into the social context of single women of that time which sheds light onto Austen's beloved book characters. Then, just for fun, I read Darcy's Story, a retelling of Pride and Predjudice from the perspective of Darcy. The author stayed very true to the original, even quoting passages.

3. Read a book that celebrates beauty.

Charity - Garden Maker by Christie Purifoy

A beautifully bound book filled with words and photos from Purifoy’s own garden has left me with the longing to plant roses and host a garden tea. This book is for the garden lover, wanna-be gardener, or just a lover of the Creator who has given so much beauty for us to enjoy.

Gina- Calling Your Name by Janice Etter

I wanted to read a poetry book as my book that celebrates beauty and chose Janice Etter's Calling Your Name. The book is divided into sections with poems celebrating nature, children, and grief. The latter section was probably the most meaningful to me. 

4. Take some notes every day about your Bible reading. 

Charity - Journaling along with my devotions is a habit I plan to continue. Often I only write a sentence or two or sometimes just a verse that I want to think about, but the practice of slowing down and thinking has enriched my quiet time.

Gina- I enjoyed jotting down a few notes with my Bible reading in March and April, but then the busyness of May dropped the habit. But I began again in June and hope to continue. Reading with a pen helps me read with more intention. 

5. Place a book in a free library box. 

Charity -The excuse to slip a book into one of the many Little Free Libraries I pass was so fun. Maybe I’ll do it again soon! 

Gina- This spring, I've been going through some of my shelves and clearing out some books to make room for new ones. I got rid of several boxes of books at a homeschool book swap/sale. But when I dropped off a few books at the free library box, I brought home several books, so I'm not sure that worked very well!

I'd love to hear what books brought beauty to your life this spring.


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