Have you ever had one of those “stick your foot in your mouth” moments. Well, I’ve had plenty….Recently, while on a trip to Chicago with my famous DJ friend, Candice and other friends, we were able to meet some of the actors and actresses from the Chicago Fire, Chicago Med, and Chicago PD TV shows (which was pretty cool so I had to mention). We also met a real life Chicago fireman (a real hero is really cool though) at one of the events.

While one of my friends and I were discussing life with the nice fireman, I joked about my son entering the teen years and being fearful of the images girls may try to send him or vice versa on a phone (which he doesn’t have yet). My joke was, “If Chloe the Ho-y” tries to send an in appropriate picture of her body to my son, I may flip out. As I said this, the kind fireman turned to me and said, ….”My daughter’s name is Chloe.” Of course, I was mortified that I had unintentionally used his daughter’s name in my silly comment, and I wanted to put my foot in my mouth at the time. Eventually, I apologized and donated to the charity he was promoting for the Chicago Fire department to show my gratitude.

On a serious note, around this same time back home in the South, one of my best friends was going through a terrible time of grief from losing a baby. We went from preparing showers and picking out pink hair bows for a precious little girl to preparing meals for two grieving parents and picking out thinking of you gifts. As I called, sat with, and walked with my friend trying to listen to her and just be there, I was reminded of the things people say trying to help during difficult times, that actually do the opposite of help. Therefore, I thought I’d encourage you as you read this blog for “What not to say” during difficult times.

1-Time heals all wounds.

Death isn’t something we were ever created to handle. God created us to live forever with him in the garden, but sin screwed this up and the world we live in is now broken and death is a part of the brokenness.  Although, it doesn’t have to for those who believe in Jesus paying their penalty for sin and dying in their place :). This is the good news/gospel!

2-When can you move on or you need to move on?

Some people can’t move on, they just have to go on. The good news is that God won’t waste their pain. He can make beautiful things from ashes.

3-Everything happens for a reason (as if it was a good reason).

Again, this isn’t helpful and sometimes the reasoning stinks. The main reason bad things happen is because we live in a broken world…

4-At least you…fill in the blank.

This doesn’t make anyone feel better during a tough time.

5-Be thankful…

Sometimes people can’t be during a tough time and someone telling them to be thankful makes it worse. 

6-I know how you feel.

No two people are alike, no two people experience things exactly alike. So no, you really don’t know…

7-What can I do for you?

Be more specific. Ask, “Can I bring you dinner on Monday?

8-Call me if you need me.

They won’t call, call them just to check in.

9-God needed her more than you did or God needed another angel.

This is not biblical. God doesn’t need us, he chooses to partner with us in this world to do His work. God doesn’t need babies in heaven either. Also, people don’t become angels. People who are grieving aren’t helped by a statement like this and it’s also not true. Again, the loss of a loved one is a result of a broken world. (period) 

10-Nothing.

Acknowledge that a loss happened, and say something encouraging… See suggestions below.

Bonus: “Whatcha got in there?” Recently, at a family funeral, an old lady from a past church, came up and patted one of my family members on the stomach and asked, “Whatcha got in there?”, to which my family member replied in a very sweet voice, “fat”. Little did the old lady know, this person has had a very difficult few years resulting in a few extra lbs. I told this family member, an appropriate response would have been to pat the old lady on her chest and say, “Whatcha got in there? Probably not a heart!” Actually, I know vengeance is not ours, but God’s…PS. Just because you are an old lady doesn’t give you the right to be rude.

Here are some things to consider saying:

  • I’m so sorry.
  • I’m praying for you. However, don’t just say it, do it!
  • No one should have to go through this.
  • My favorite memory of your loved one is when…
  • I’d love to hear about your loved one.
  • I think about you and your loved one often.
  • Your loved one will be missed.
  • I’m sure you miss him/her so much.
  • Every life matters no matter how short or how long. This life mattered to me and I know to you as well.

Finally, Job’s friends in the Old Testament often get a bad rap for saying all the wrong things when he lost everything-which they did. However, did you know that at first they sat with him in silence for seven days?! Job 2:13, “Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Sometimes, we just need to go and sit with those who are grieving.

Be blessed this week and let’s all think and pray before we speak to those who are hurting,

Dr. Atwell

PS. If you’d like to donate to the Chicago Fire Department charity, you can do so at www.ignitethespirit.org

Donating to a charity or cause is another way to show someone you care about them as they are grieving and to assure them that every life matters. My personal favorite is to donate Gideon bibles (www.gideons.org). This way, life can be made possible for others by sharing the gospel.

Below is a pic from our trip :).

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4 Comments

  1. cheermommy4eva on October 24, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    This is absolutely spot on and I love every word of it! ❤Sent via the Samsung Galaxy Note9, an AT&T 5G Evolution capable smartphone

  2. ahall0510 on October 24, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Love it!

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  3. jwarchi on October 24, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    I’ll be the first to comment, since I’m the firefighter in question…
    It was clearly unintentional, but I’m glad you used the anecdote as a segway to this important topic. I get this one wrong pretty much all the time. I’m a fixer and a helper and sometimes that’s just not what is necessary. I’ll keep this in mind in the future when I’m trying to comfort a friend.
    Or at least I’ll try to.

  4. Jessica Reed on October 26, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    I went from laughter, to tears, to laughter again and finally tears once more. May be the best blog yet! Well said my amazing sister! Love you!

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