How To Respond To Grief

Auntie Anne Beiler
June 11, 2019

Auntie Anne Beiler

Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels
Family Relationships

When it comes to grief, I’ve heard people say many times, “I don’t know what to say to someone in deep grief.”

Have you ever been in that situation?

Recently, I found myself walking alongside my niece, Karla, as she grieved the passing of her husband, Justin. He was only 39 years old, with a lovely wife, two beautiful girls, and one son in Heaven that passed away at three-month-old.

When I got the call, I went into shock and felt disoriented. It was too much to think about, and I went blank. This is often the case for many of us. Karla lives close by and is like one of my daughters. After I heard the news, I took my travel bag, (always packed and ready to go) and drove to her home to support her in her grief.

There were so many tears.
Tears for Karla.
Tears for Justin’s parents who had lost another son seven years ago.
Tears for the girls. Justin was a great daddy to his daughters. He meant the world to his five-year-old, Evelynn.

So…what do we do when we get the news of a loved one who has passed from this life to their eternal home?

One of the ways I have learned to comfort others during a time of deep grief is simply by “being.”

Words are not necessary. Show up and sit with those who grieve. Your presence speaks louder than anything you could say. The emptiness is too deep for words, and your presence can fill the void, if only for a brief time.

There are also many tangible things that can be done to help the grieving family. The things that helped Karla during the initial week included:

  • Spending the night
  • Planning, preparing, and managing meals
  • Cleaning the house and doing laundry
  • Babysitting and playing with the girls
  • Washing the car and getting the oil changed
  • Mowing and working on the yard
  • People sent flowers, prayed, and freely shared hugs and tears. The love and prayers were like a cocoon of sorts, protecting Karla and her girls during the initial shock and giving them the courage to get through each day.

If you can’t show up, a call, text, or card is a form of comfort as well and communicates caring. Being able to share sorrow is vital to living in community because all of us will have sorrow at some point in our lives.

Together we can share the burden of sorrow to help lighten the load.

I believe God may be closer to those in sorrow more than any other person in the world because the need is so great.

As our week went by friends and family interacted with each other in ways that brought good conversation, laughter, and tears. All of us were concerned about Evelynn who had her 5th birthday right after her daddy’s memorial.

One of Karla’s friends was talking with Evelynn and asked her how she felt about her daddy going to Heaven. She said, “I used to live with my dad, and then he went to someone else’s house, and now he lives in Heaven.”

Her friend asked her how that made her feel. Evelynn said, “There are too many choices.” She thought for a minute and then said, “I’m sad, and I’m mad.”

Maybe we can take a lesson from Evelynn when tragedy strikes.

  • Be honest about what happened.
  • Take some time to think about your feelings.
  • Be truthful about your emotions.
  • During a time of grief, there is no need to feel shame and no need to pretend about how we feel.

Emotions are meant to be experienced not judged.

What’s most important is to comfort those who grieve. Walk alongside people who have more sorrow than they should have and comfort them with hugs and tears.

Use words cautiously and be sure not to ask too many questions or give opinions. In times of grief, your presence is truly golden.


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