I've learned what it means to comfort the grieving only by seeing what has comforted me, and what hasn't, in my own grieving. I've noticed that often times, people do not quite know how to compassionately interact with those grieving and they tend to operate at one of two extremes: either saying nothing at all or saying too much.
Sadly, I myself have been at both ends. I used to try and think of just the right verse to send to someone in despair or I would try to be the hero and say the perfect thing. I wanted to be the one who said the right thing at the right time. In retrospect, what I really needed to do was listen to my friend, give her an opportunity to share her heart, and love on her and pray for her. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have a friend whose baby, a twin, died at 4 months in his sleep. I thought it would be too painful for her to talk about, and I had no idea what the "right" thing to say was, so I simply didn't say anything at all. I prayed for my friend, but I never actually reached out to let her know that. I feel absolutely horrible about it, and I've since apologized to her since. In each situation, I truly did mean well, but I realize now just how unhelpful I actually was.
In the recent months, I have seen some people that I only see a few times a year. I am obviously pregnant, but no one says anything. I think they know about the diagnosis, because we shared the news via a few different avenues, but no one asks how I'm doing or how baby is doing. I'm not purposely keeping track of everyone who has or hasn't said something, but unfortunately, I am fully aware of it, and it hurts when people don't acknowledge this pregnancy or this little life inside. Please don't say nothing because you think I'm too sad to talk about it. Like any mom, I love talking about my kids, and I love talking about this baby, too. (In all honesty, I have to make sure I don't talk too much about this baby & the diagnosis, etc, and that I remember to think of others' needs, too).
I love hearing how the Lord has comforted others, either through Scripture, songs, books, articles, sermons, etc. It's not as comforting, though, when someone just sends off Bible verses. Tell me how it has encouraged you in your day of trouble or how you are praying it over me.
Please don't automatically say that everything will be ok. We know that God is love & He is working all things together for good, but right now, my baby is sick, and things are not ok. I need that to be lovingly acknowledged.
It's also hard for me to hear people tell me that they're praying for a miracle. I don't want to discourage anyone from praying for a miracle. In my weakness, I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to hope or pray for, and I'm afraid of the despair I might face if I long for a miracle healing and the Lord doesn't answer that prayer. I'm afraid also of the resentment I might feel if I know that someone else got a miracle healing for their baby but I prayed and prayed and the Lord didn't do that for mine. I think of the lyrics to Natalie Grant's song More Than Anything: Help me want the Healer more than the healing...Help me want you Jesus more than anything. For me it's not about the healing anymore, but about drawing closer to the Lord through all of this.
A simple acknowledgement of the situation and an offering of, "I'm sorry and I'm praying for you" is so powerful. Wow, you are taking time out of your life to bring me before the throne of grace in prayer? Thank you.
Above all, I've learned to be gracious to others when they either don't say the right thing or they don't say anything at all. They may not know how to comfort. Nobody is consciously trying to hurt me or make me feel worse than I already do. They are sincerely trying to comfort. They mean well, and they have good intentions, but it may just be coming out wrong. I know, I've been there.