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What to Say to a Person Who is Hurting
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“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” —Psalm 46:1, NKJV

We all face storms in life. People go through stress and heartache with the death of a loved one, natural disasters, divorce, illness, job loss, or other traumatic experiences. When someone is hurting, it is common to hear Christian friends say things that are heartfelt and meant to comfort—but in reality fail to help and in some cases can even add hurt.

One of the best things we can do is simply have a ministry of presence: ask good questions, listen well, pray, and always be prepared to compassionately share the Gospel. (See 1 Peter 3:15.)

“I know how you feel.”

People in the midst of grief feel that no one could possibly know the depth of their unique pain. You offer comfort when your words acknowledge that.

“I cannot imagine how difficult this is for you.”

“Are you doing OK?” or “How are you doing?”

These common conversational questions may suggest you aren’t asking for a real answer. A slight rewording can make a big difference.

“How are you holding up?”

“You’ll feel better before you know it.”

“You’ll get through it.”

“I’m sure it would never happen again.”

“Don’t cry.” (or “Be strong for your family.”)

“Be happy for what you have left.”

“God must have needed him/her in heaven.”

“Thank God you have other children.”

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”

“Don’t let it rob you of your joy.”

Any personal stories that compare this grief or loss to some other grief or loss.

Anything that tells the person how to feel. Instead, respond to how he/she is feeling.

“Where were you when it happened?”

Use open questions. (“What was it like?”)

“May I take a moment to pray for you?”

If a family has lost a loved one, talk openly with them about him/her; share memories.

Freely speak the name of the one who has died.

Offer Bible verses about God’s presence and love: “I am with you always.” —Matthew 28:20, NKJV

Be willing to listen.

Be comfortable with silence.

Avoid distractions.

Demonstrate God’s compassion.

Help with next steps.

Always be prepared to share God’s hope.

Consider taking the BGEA Sharing Hope in Crisis training.

Grieving people often believe everyone else forgets their loss after a few weeks—and friends may believe it causes hurt to keep mentioning the situation or lost loved one. Help by showing you remember, even long after.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada offers training in a variety of communities to help equip Canadians to offer hope in Christ to family members, friends, co-workers, etc. — whoever is experiencing a personal crisis and needs compassion and a listening ear. The training is also required training for those who feel called by God to serve as volunteer Rapid Response Team Chaplains, for deployment in Canada and/or abroad, to offer hope in Christ to victims of natural and or man-made disasters.

Please call 1-800-293-3717 or email if you are interested in taking a training or want more information.