Resources on Comforting the Grieving


What Do We Say to Grieving People? (Nancy Guthrie): Nancy and her husband have lost two children. Here she offers advice for overcoming the barrier of awkwardness when you want to comfort a grieving person but don’t know what to say.

Yes, You Should Say Something: Overcoming Awkwardness with Grieving People (Nancy Guthrie): Grieving people aren’t expecting you to say something that will take away the hurt. They just want you to be willing to hurt with them, willing to overcome the awkwardness to engage. Nancy’s advice takes the pressure off of people to say the “perfect thing” and offers specific suggestions for what to say to someone who is grieving. Specifically, grieving people long to hear the name of the person who died, and they want to hear your stories and memories about their loved one.

What Not to Ask Someone Suffering (Nancy Guthrie): Nancy explains why “How are you?” is an unhelpful question for a grieving person and offers excellent alternative questions to ask.

How Not to Help a Sufferer (Gavin Ortlund): There are four ways we tend to be like Job’s friends in our attempts to help the suffering: appeal too quickly to God’s sovereignty, launch into a story of how God helped you in your suffering, minimize the wrongdoing that caused the suffering, and emphasize character formation over compassion. The author discusses how we can avoid these pitfalls and provide Christ-like comfort instead. 

Why We Fail the Grieving (Philip Kenyon): This article names three reasons why the bereaved easily drop off the church’s radar—feelings of awkwardness, discomfort with our mortality, and unrealistic expectations—and how to overcome them. Then the author suggests a schedule of tangible things the church can do to follow up with a member who has experienced loss (phone calls, cards, etc.) and offers a few cautions.

Loving Those Who Grieve (Justin Taylor): How do we as the body of Christ reach out to the bereaved and give comfort without adding to their pain? This article summarizes suggestions for both those who are grieving and for those who can comfort them (be patient, remember that grief comes in waves, don’t force small talk, etc.).

Understanding Grief (Charles Stanley): This article discusses the stages of the grieving process so we can show understanding and patience toward those who are in various stages of grief for varying lengths of time.

Comforting a Grieving Family: Using the acronym “B.L.E.S.S.,” this article offers suggestions drawn from the author’s pastoral experience in comforting the bereaved: be physically present, listen to them, empathize with their pain, share a passage of Scripture, say a prayer for them.

Taking the Journey of Grief with Hope (Brad Hambrick): This is a series of nine videos from a seminar on grief by pastor and biblical counselor Brad Hambrick. Each video addresses one of nine steps through the journey of grief (prepare for it, acknowledge it, understand its impact, mourn and experience God’s comfort, understand the gospel story that gives meaning to the experience, etc.). The page also includes links to a wealth of other resources on grief.

How to Discourage a Grieving Friend (Vaneetha Rendall Risner): The author recalls mistakes she made in trying to comfort grieving friends, then offers insight she learned from being on the other side: Don’t add to their burden by analyzing their grief. Don’t offer suggestions or pat answers. Don’t magnify their pain by minimizing their struggle. Instead, be willing to sit and listen, grieve with them, and pray for them.

Books and Ministries

“Comforting the Bereaved: For Pastors and Others Who Minister,” by Warren W. Wiersbe, David W. Wiersbe, Moody Press, 1985. An excellent, brief book on shepherding those who have lost loved ones. Click here.

Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart: How to Relate to Those Who Are Suffering,” by Kenneth C. Haugk, Stephen Ministries, 2045 Innerbelt Business Center Drive, St. Louis, Missouri, 2004. Haugk presents good, practical insight into comforting the bereaved, showing both what not to do or say, as well as suggestions that really do help, based on years of experience. The Stephen Ministries provides good teaching and training for counseling ministry in the church and has produced many good resources.