How to Support Someone Grieving With the Gift of One Simple Question

by | Post Traumatic Hope

Grieving. Have you ever lost someone you didn’t think you could live without? Like your souls were so connected, how would yours survive alone? Thousands of shared memories, but now, that’s it. No more. The heart cries out, No!

How do you love someone who lost someone?

Love Lost

Allison and I met in junior high. She didn’t like me at first because she thought I was trying to steal her boyfriend, Bill. But that was just some mean-girl gossiping crap in her ear. Zipping past the drama, our friendship blossomed fast and rich.

AJ was pure West Texas, full of fun, sass, and can-do. Charming, curious, and direct. She would ask anyone, anything. For instance, How much money do you make? To someone she had just met! I’d marvel to watch shocked jaws drop, then spill the beans only seconds later. Every now and then, I’d tease her about it. To which she would always say, Sandy, I’ve got the right to ask anybody anything I want. And they’ve got the right to say, None of your business. How can you argue with that?!

Everything about Allison was wonderful—magical, really. She was the first person on planet Earth to love me unconditionally, a fact I trusted because she accepted me unconditionally.

We talked without filters, no secrets, no area of our lives hidden from one another, and no subject out of bounds. Thirty years of love, laughter, loss, adventure, and suffering. Right up until her very last breath.

And then the oddest thing happened. The sun came up the next morning. It was the most peculiar feeling. The world had the audacity to keep on charging ahead. Unfazed by the loss of this rare and splendid wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.

The Soul Goes Into Hiding

Isolation is common amid grief. The outside world feels unsafe, with its expectations to move on and rush past the pain. In our culture, the allotted time for grief is about two episodes of Fixer Upper. You sense the pressure as you engage with others.

Grief creates interesting dynamics. Like awkward moments where tongues are tied, and eyes dart left and right, searching for an escape hatch. Some pretend as if nothing ever happened. They hop right over your loss like trying to avoid a speed bump. Who wants to slow down for the grieving?

Others gravitate towards Christianese, given the cumbersome task of interacting with someone who’s grieving. Undoubtedly well-intentioned. But their cliches made me want to scream, Would it be too much to simply acknowledge my pain?

And then, in a class all their own, there’s the superior whose words sought to cloak my pain with shame. Sandra, I thought you were a woman of faith. How can you call yourself a woman of faith and grieve?

So, into hibernation goes the soul. You’re stuck in this space where no one talks about the person you love and lost. No one mentions their name anymore. But within you, they’re still very much alive.

The Gift of Empathy

Months later, alone in my cave doing laundry, the phone rang. Afraid of more interaction, I almost didn’t answer. But the soul yearns for connection. I thought, Just keep it simple and short. Like a turtle peeping out of her shell, Hello?

On the other end was Cindy Evans. A woman I deeply respected. We made just a bit of small talk as I continued putting up laundry. But then I heard her tender, compassionate voice say, Sandra, tell me about Allison. 

What does she mean, tell me about Allison?!

Flying right past my silence, Cindy continues, Tell me about your friendship. Tell me about Allison.

Cindy’s words halted my activity as I melted onto the closet floor. This time she gently waited for me to reply. Well, Allison…

I don’t recall all I said, but for the next hour, Cindy listened as I told her about AJ. I cried. And she cried. Every now and then, I would pause, figuring she’d grown tired of listening. But no. She’d just ask another question. Oh, the love! The sweet, extraordinary power of empathy and listening sourced by the Holy Spirit through one of His loved ones. One simple question brought my soul out of hiding.

Full Disclosure

I’ve been tongue-tied with those in grief. And I’ve ignored the loss someone has endured because I didn’t know what to say. And more than once, no words would have been better than the cringe-worthy Christianese platitudes I let fumble out of my mouth. Pouring salt on tender wounds.

But Cindy’s one simple question expressed the love of Christ, meeting the longing of my grieving heart. I needed to talk about Allison to someone who wanted to listen. Cindy’s empathy also taught me a priceless lesson – how to love someone who lost someone. One simple question, Tell me about them?

To date, as I’ve had the opportunity to love someone who lost someone, I haven’t met anyone who didn’t savor the chance to talk once again about their loved one who is still very much alive within their heart.

As you’ve been reading, has someone who’s grieving come to mind? If so, it’s an opportunity to love someone who lost someone. And here’s the beautiful thing. It’s as simple as one little sentence. Tell me about them.

It’s a gift to enter into someone’s pain. A gift for them. And as you’ll come to know, a gift for you as well.

To help make reaching out easier for you, I’ve curated 12 Meaningful Questions to Connect With the Grieving. Yours to download and use for free.

Trusting in Jesus, you have more treasure than pockets. From my heart to yours,

Sandra Adcock Signature

Photo: Allison and I on holiday in Albuquerque, New Mexico, circa 1980. For the second snap, AJ quipped, Let’s do our serious faces!