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People Need to be Allowed to 'Feel'

That which is most helpful for people to do in grief situations is to be able to express or pour out their feelings, whatever they are. It is most helpful for friends or pastors to be able to be comfortable with a person's feelings, no matter what they are.

To allow a person to be angry, sad, hurt, even hateful toward God, allows the feelings which are ‘just feelings’ to be cleansed from the system. Perhaps they may not ever be fully gone, but the helper must learn not to be threatened by whatever the person's feelings may be.

An expression like, ‘All things work together for the good of those who love God,’ is true; but when it is said to a person at the time of intense grief, it communicates a message that says, "You shouldn't feel bad." It is not a caring, helpful thing to say just then. It seems to tell the person, indirectly, that this is an act of God and true faith would see it as such and would not sorrow.

What someone who says that is trying to do, of course, is to cheer the other person. He thinks that when he uses that expression, it will be comforting. He doesn't believe that it is good for a person to feel bad, and he himself feels awkward about what to say or do for the other person. So he tries to find something that will make him stop showing his feelings.

But . . . they NEED to be able to express their feelings. We must not deny them this important step in their grief or loss.

The same may be said for an expression like, ‘It's the Lord's will.’ The grieving Christian is not helped by saying this to him. Telling it to him, when he is acutely feeling loss, discourages the frank and honest expression of his feelings that are so important and valuable in a healthy working out of grief.

It is far better to say to a person whom you see on the verge of tears, "Go ahead and cry. Jesus cried, too, when his friend died."

Or simply say how you feel — words like, "I feel so bad about what happened." These words communicate that you understand and accept them with their feelings of loss, sorrow, and even resentment.

There are words of faith that are important — they are certainly important to you. There are words that hold great truths. But my counsel to you is to not offer them too quickly. Saying them too soon runs the risk of making them seem trite; of giving the impression that you are not really hearing what people are saying about their hurt; of denying them their needed time to grieve, to mourn, to face their loss.

Instead, wait for a later time when they are ready to once again pick up their own faith and to be encouraged.


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