I have a deep concern for the parents I am serving and ministering to, that God has sent my way. Many Bible believing parents (I will even say most of them) can become anywhere from frustrated to very angry with other Christians who have never experienced the death of their own child but will quote scriptures at a devastated and grieving parent, starting at the memorial service. I spend a chunk of my time seeking God on how to undo the damage caused by well-meaning Believers who want to either “comfort” these parents or “help them get the victory” over their grief with Bible verses.
I understand you may believe it is always the right time to share scripture with people who are hurting. You may be one who believes everything we share always needs to be backed up with Bible verses to make sure people are not being led astray. As a pastor’s kid and an international minister of the gospel, I used to believe the same thing… until my daughter passed from this earth.
Now I know that it is rarely ever a good thing for someone who has not lost a child from this earth through death to try and give advice (including quoting scriptures) to a parent who is in the place of deep grief and darkness after the death of their child. The exceptions are if you are someone who had a deep, intimate and trusting relationship with the parent before the death occurred (which includes spiritual leadership) or that parent has specifically come to you for hope and encouragement.
Sometimes because of a horrific tragedy or trauma, Christians can find themselves hurled into a suffocating pit that seems too deep, too dark and too hopeless to ever be able to get out. You and I both know that is not true, but if you are the one in the pit, it is almost impossible to believe otherwise. The death of your child is one of those times. I can say that because I have found myself thrown into that very pit when my oldest daughter died on October 12, 2011.
For many grieving parents, Bible verses are not going to be the “rope” that works to pull them out of that place. Many of them are confused and angry with God because of what has happened. People trying to tell them what the Bible says can make these deeply wounded sheep push both Christians and God away even more (which I know is not your heart) because they already know what the Bible says. They believed it, but now, much of what they believed appears not to be true.
So, what is one of the best Bible verses to have tucked away if someone you know has lost a child? I think it is Romans 12:15. It tells us to rejoice with those who are rejoicing and to weep with those who are weeping. Some translations say to mourn with those who mourn or to share their sorrow.
We need those who will lovingly climb down into the pit with us, to be our lifeline until we are ready to grab ahold of the truth of God’s Word for ourselves once again. God can and will use His Word to bring us hope and give us strength, but not when people around us throw it our way as a Christian cliché from an emotional distance as their way of helping us.
What does being in that place with us look like? Just sitting in silence with us, crying with us, watching a movie with us, listening to us talk about our child, helping with day-to-day functions such as doing our laundry, taking our car to a gas station and filling the tank, mopping our floors, taking our kids to practice, going for a short walk with us, etc.
When you are Christ’s hands of love being extended to someone in deep darkness, I believe the Holy Spirit will also prompt and anoint your words (whether it is scriptures or not) to be a comfort and a light of hope. He will also anoint your silence if that is what is needed for the grieving parent you are with.
If you are unable to be there for them in that way because of long distance or other circumstances, contact them through phone calls or texts. Leave messages that let them know you are thinking of them and hurting with them. Send them cards in the mail on a regular basis. If they begin to respond back (and it could take a while, as in weeks or months), then always be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and make sure anything you share with them is not you trying to fix them. Be the voice of gentle love, bringing true comfort, not correction.
Proverbs 15:23 is another verse to consider. It tells us that the right word at the right time is helpful to the receiver and brings joy to the giver. Here it is in several versions.
Everyone enjoys giving good advice, and how wonderful it is to be able to say the right thing at the right time! (TLB)
…there is nothing better than the right word at the right time. (ERV)
… how sweet is the right word at the right time! (VOICE)
To give an appropriate answer is a joy; how good is a word at the right time! (CEB)
There is another verse in Proverbs that can also be of help. Chapter twenty-five verse twenty in The Passion Translation says: When you sing a song of joy to someone suffering in the deepest grief and heartache, it can be compared to disrobing in the middle of a blizzard or rubbing salt in a wound.
I know a lot of bereaved parents who would say that sounds about right. Someone trying to cheer us up because they think we have been sad for too long and should be pulling out of it by now is extremely hurtful.
By now I am sure you have noticed that the verses I have shared are for these shattered parents in an indirect way. They are verses for those who have lost a child because they guide you in how to respond in a loving, caring, kind and needed way.
On a practical note, a few more things that will be helpful for you to know are:
- Most experts say that anything under five years is considered fresh grief for a parent who has lost a child.
- They also acknowledge that it is traumatic grief. These parents have been through a trauma, and many of them also deal with PTSD (including ones who were not there when their child died).
- For many bereaved parents, the second year can be even harder in some ways than the first year.
I know our heart is to help those who are hurting, as it should be. Parents who have lost a child from this earth are hurting more deeply than most, and a big part of that painful loss will be with us for the rest of our time here on earth. I don’t expect you to be able to fully understand this about grieving parents, and all of us who are in this “unwanted life-time access club” truly hope and pray that you NEVER EVER find out! Most pareavors (parents who have been bereaved of their child) will say they would not wish this kind of pain even on their worst enemy.
Thank you for your loving concern for parents who are grieving the death of their child. I hope you will continually hold these shattered parents up to the throne room and be thankful for the work God is doing in their hearts to draw them back to Himself, in a way that may not make sense to you because you have not been in this place. It makes sense to those of us who have been there, though.
Many of us are familiar with the acronym of H.O.P.E. that says, “Hold On Pain Ends”. That saying just is not true for a bereaved parent, until we are reunited with our child on the other side of eternity. I will end this by sharing with you what I tell pareavors at the end of every single podcast. “Hold On Pain EASES. There is HOPE”!
We would like to send you two free chapters from the book Come Grieve Through Our Eyes: How to Give Comfort and Support to Bereaved Parents by Taking a Glimpse Into Our Hidden World. I promise you won’t be hounded to purchase the book!
There are two different options. One is if you are NOT a bereaved parent, you will also get occasional emails sharing how bereaved parents are being helped through GPS Hope. The other is for those who have lost a child, which will add you to our Weekly Word of Hope emails. You can unsubscribe from either list at any time. Click the option below that applies to you, to sign up for your free chapters.
Expressions of Hope is provided by Grieving Parents Sharing Hope (GPS Hope). The founders, Dave and Laura Diehl, travel full time in their Hope Mobile (a 38-foot motor home) to be more easily available for speaking and ministry requests, and bringing intimate weekend retreats to bereaved parents. Laura is also a singer/songwriter and the author of multiple award-winning books.
If you would like more information about bringing Dave and Laura to you for an event, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in bringing GPS Hope to your area for a weekend retreat click here.
- Check out the Grieving Parents Sharing Hope weekly podcast
- Subscribe to Laura’s YouTube channel.
- If you are a bereaved parent, we encourage you to connect with us on our private Facebook page or our public Facebook page.
- If you are not a bereaved parent but want to support those who are, or want to follow us as we give hope to these precious parents, please connect with us at Friends of GPS Hope on Facebook.