Last week I went with Detective Sonya Williams of the Henderson County Sheriff's Department to do a death notification. It is so difficult to notify a family that their loved one has died, especially when the loved one has been the victim of a violent crime. Many of us have done this type of thing and it never gets any easier no matter how many times you do it. As has been the case in all my experiences with the Sheriff’s Department I was so impressed with Sonya’s professionalism and concern for this family.
But this event brought to my mind a necessary skill for many of us. It is the skill of bringing comfort to a hurting person. How do you do it? I don’t claim to know it all, but I do have a few quick words of advice that I think will help.
1. Remember when you were hurting.
The Apostle Paul said,
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-‐4
This verse says that God uses our own pain to help us learn to comfort others. When he comforts us in times of trouble, He calls upon us to pass on that comfort later to someone else who is hurting. Somebody once said that your misery can become your ministry.
2. When you don’t know what to say, don’t talk.
It sounds simple, but so many people don’t follow this advice. They think that as they start talking and keep talking that they will think of something to say. Not always true! Peter once did this in Jesus presence. In Mark 9 it says that Peter starting talking because he didn’t know what to say! Do you know anyone like that?
Peter, the great apostle spoke because he didn’t know what to say! That’s not what you want! The worst thing you can do for a person in crisis is to start throwing out overused and meaningless words.
3. Just be “with” them.
What do all of us do when we are about to deliver bad news or be around people who are devastated? If you are like me you are asking yourself, “What am I going to say? What words can bring them comfort?”
The truth is that hurting people don’t need words very much; words can’t change what they are going through. Many times they just need someone to stand there and hurt with them.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15
Note in that verse is doesn’t call us to say anything. The key word is “with.” Just being there while they are hurting and hurting with them means a lot.
I hope you don't have to deliver any bad news any time soon. But if you do, I hope this helps!