Recently two good friends of mine were hit by tragedy.

One of them lost his mom. The other one is watching her husband struggle with a terrible disease.

As a friend to both of them, I have tried to figure out how to love them well in situations that seem completely overwhelming and stressful. I have learnt some things along the way that I want to share with you.

If you know someone who has suffered the loss of someone they love or is facing a terrible sickness, here are some ways that you can love them well and help others to:

[1] Deal with the Admin

When tragedy strikes, there is suddenly a lot of admin. Everyone wants the latest news of what is going on, there are a hundred decisions that need to be made, and eating is probably a good thing to continue to do.

One way you can be a champion friend at this time is to offer to take over some of that admin. Start up and manage a Whatsapp or Facebook group to let the general public know what the latest updates are while asking people not to contact your friend directly; initiate a meal roster that caring friends can sign up for and perhaps use a system like to make it easier.

Look for things like this which the grieving or struggling person does not need to be busying their time with and suggest it to close friends and family or offer to do it yourself.

[2] Do what is helpful for THEM, not you.

We get it – you care and you want to know what’s going on, you want to visit, you want to be involved. But sometimes when fifty people want that same thing it can be too much. Preface every action and every word you make at this time with: Is this the best thing for them?

I asked one friend if I could give her a hug and she thanked me so much for asking as most other people had just assumed they could take one.

Sometimes, during tragedy, our presence and words can be a huge help – often they can make things worse. Be caring enough to keep the focus on the people closest to those involved and let this be about them.

[3] Think in terms of Ripples and Concentric Circles

This came via my friend, Stacey, and makes a lot of sense:

The person/people at the centre should be supported by those closest to them. Then these closest people need the next ring of community to support them (and not jump straight into the middle), and so on and on. Not only does this model protect the innermost from being overwhelmed, but it also insures that others in the situation get the support they so need, as they look after their loved ones. Sometimes you are helping the person at the middle most by caring for those most dear to them.

[4] Don’t say stupid things in the name of caring.

Often at times like this we don’t know what to say. It is important for the people involved to know we love them, are thinking about them and praying for them, but beyond that we need to think carefully.

Don’t throw meaningless clichés, out of context Bible verses, or positive sayings at them as these can often cause more hurt than comfort. Questions your words before you set them loose.

Also avoid making promises of what you would like to see happen, but might not actually be the case. Try and speak life and presence and hope into the situation while keeping it real and honest at the same time.

[5] Try to stay away from “I Know How You Feel”

When my mother-in-law was really sick, my sister-in-law had someone say that to her, but then relate it to the time their dog was really sick. No, people, no. STOP IT!

Even if the exact same type of tragedy happened to you and your family, this is a different occasion with different people and so you may have some idea of what it is likely to be like for them, but you don’t know.  So try to refrain from using that line. There may be a way that you can show empathy with, “I remember when my mom passed that it was really difficult” or something which lets them know you have some kind of idea but without minimising their unique experience in the moment.


I speak from fresh and recent experience when I say it is so difficult when those you love and care about are so obviously going through hard times. You want to get involved, you want to help in the best way possible. And I really believe that begins with making sure as best as possible that you don’t do anything to make the situation worse.

Look for opportunities to serve and love and stand in the gap and head other people off at the pass and find safe ways to send messages of love and support that let them know you care and are around [crucial!] but help you stay out-of-the-way.

One of the most powerful verses in the Bible is to be found in Psalm 34 verse 18 which reads:

The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit.

If you are wanting to know a little more about that God who promises that even at the very worst times in our life, He will be present and strengthening us to be able to make it through, then simply click on the banner below.

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