"I think I’ve just seen my sister for the last time," I remember Adam saying. I did not know what to say. I pulled him in and hugged him, before he was able to see my face crack with sadness. Less than a week later, Tammy died. Witnessing my friend grieve has been devastating, and yet, one of the greatest honours of friendship.

When standing alongside bereaved friends, we feel helpless and often don’t feel like we are doing the right thing. Here is some useful advice on how to be a good friend during their time of grief:

The power of presence.

At times of deep sadness, sometimes we want to be alone. But often we want our closest friends with us, even if they do nothing. I have felt the sheer power of sitting in silence with a friend as I lamented loss. God’s presence is amazing, but sometimes we can also benefit from in-person encounters with others. Paul, having despaired of life itself (2 Corinthians 1:8) describes how God comforts the downcast (2 Corinthians 7:6). Show up with tears, show up with food, show up with flowers, but whatever you do, don’t underestimate the power of showing up!

Ask them what you can do for them.

I wasn’t sure how big the funeral would be for my friend’s sister, or even if I would be invited, but I simply asked him, do you want me there?” and how can I help you best on the day?” He responded by inviting me to the house before the service and I accompanied him, on his request, as we followed the hearse in a car convoy and transported guests to the funeral. I sat a few rows behind him during the service and couldn’t help but feel moved by the pain etched across his face.

God’s presence is amazing, but sometimes we can also benefit from in-person encounters with others.

I could not have been a prouder friend as he delivered his tribute to his beloved sister and I made sure to tell him so. Even if it seems obvious, it is important to ask your friends how you can help in their time of need. Jesus even asked the blind man Bartimaeus what He could do for him (Mark 10:51) and gave him the dignity of asking for his sight. Don’t assume, and try to be more specific than simply saying, if there’s anything I can do…”

Keep praying and checking in.

Grief is a long road. When those closest to me have died, it has taken time for things to begin to feel markedly better. I’ve spent much of the last few years praying for my friend as he contends with grief. I prayed for his healing in the immediate aftermath, before the funeral as well as each night since. Persevere in asking your friend how they are doing and continue interceding for them. Romans 12:12 encourages us to be faithful in prayer”. This is true and helpful advice.

Bereavement is almost always inconvenient but making the time for a friend who is grieving can be invaluable to them. I will never forget how, in my most painful moments friends have dropped everything and rushed to be with me. We will all have moments when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The rod and staff are a guaranteed comfort, but God also gives us people. If you are walking that path at the moment, don’t do so alone. If you know someone in the valley, don’t underestimate the value of climbing down to be with them. In these moments, the best of friends can make all the difference.

If you know someone in the valley, don’t underestimate the value of climbing down to be with them.

Why I'm celebrating International Friendship Day

Why I'm celebrating International Friendship Day

This Saturday is International Friendship Day – Phil Knox loves friendship and thinks it’s worth celebrating
Silence, grief and the everlasting hope

Silence, grief and the everlasting hope

How do we grapple with silence, grief and pain and still hold on to hope?