I was chatting a few days ago with a widow friend, let’s call her “Sally,” who was telling me about a recent note she had received in the mail.
Sally is almost 18 months into her widowhood while I just passed the two-year mark. At this stage of our new season, we don’t expect friends to do a ton of reaching out to us anymore. Certainly not to the extent that we experienced in the first few weeks or months.
And honestly, that’s how it should be. I don’t think any of us is able to keep up the pace long after our friend’s loved one has passed away or they’ve suffered a loss of any kind. Otherwise, that is all we would be doing every day! Life DOES need to keep moving for everyone. Sally and I both agreed that is normal and expected behavior.
And yet…back to the note. Sally received this note from a friend she’d grown up with, but their correspondence is now mostly limited to Christmas and birthdays. We all have friends like that. Her note said that God had placed Sally on her heart, so she was just writing to let Sally know that she was still thinking about her and still praying for her. That’s it!
Sally was genuinely touched by this kind gesture, as we can all imagine. It got us to talking about why that is such a rarity. And not necessarily just in the years following a loss, but often even in the days shortly afterwards. Sometimes it’s just hard to know what to say in a note, isn’t it? No matter how much time has or hasn’t passed.
Did you notice what WASN’T in the note? Advice. That’s right. And yet, Sally was deeply blessed by the short, but thoughtful words in the note.
And that can only lead us to one conclusion – sending advice to your grieving or hurting friend isn’t necessary to be a blessing. In fact, trying to come up with appropriate advice can often send you down a wrong road and the words could come across as empty, uninformed, or even hurtful.
As a general rule, we are not looking for advice. We are THRILLED just to know that someone remembers that we’re likely still grieving our loss very deeply. And to be reminded that prayers are still being offered up for us is a powerful message.
Another friend of mine, who also suffered a deep loss years ago, told me that one of the most honest and helpful things one of his friends said to him was, “I’m just calling to call.” Simple. Powerful. Heartfelt.
So if you struggle with what to say or write to a hurting friend, whether they’re two days into their grief, or two years, remember this. You don’t have to have the perfect words of advice before you put pen to paper (or phone to ear). The simple declaration of your thoughts and prayers is always appreciated.
One other lesson from this note to Sally – did you notice that her friend felt God’s little nudge to write the note? Oh my, how many times have I ignored that in my own life? How about you? It’s pretty easy to do, isn’t it?
But when God’s Spirit nudges us, I’m pretty sure there’s a reason for it! He wants us to act because He knows someone needs that encouragement in their day. You might, in fact, be THE shining moment in their day! I know that’s how Sally felt about her note that day.
My prayer is that we can all be more receptive to those nudges – myself included – and brighten up dark days with a simple, “I’m praying for you” message.
A friend loves at all times.