When it Happens to a Friend


Your friend’s parent has died. There’s no nice way to say it and sugar coating it or being tactful is just insulting. It’s an ugly, excruciating fact that breaks into your life, and you’re forced to watch your friend struggle with grief. You have no idea what to say to them, no way to take away the pain that you wish you could erase from existence. Maybe you have millions of swirling sentence beginnings and none of them sound right. In a military family, this reality impacts the remaining family members in all sorts of far-ranging ways.
The undeniable truth is that your friend’s parent is gone. And you have to watch them come to that realization. The pain of it could easily swallow them whole. The other undeniable truth that stretches through your entire life, before and after that terrible day, is that the Lord is present and covers you and your friend with complete love, protection, compassion, and understanding. Whether you are doubled over with helplessness and long for his arms or if you want to spit in his face with indignation, Jesus Christ accepts and receives you and every thought or feeling you have. He welcomes you completely into his love. Keep going to hear more about what the Lord has to say about death, grief, and his unending love for you. 



A lot of people struggle with what to tell a grieving friend, or even how to act around them. Rather than actually relating one story for this section, we wanted to take a little different direction. If YOU have a story to tell, please let us know on our Facebook or Twitter pages (connect above). Here are a few suggestions given by others who have had similar experiences

When my parents died 10 months apart the comments that I found most comforting were...I am so sorry for your loss....I can't even imagine what you are going through.....Let me help you get through this....You will be in my thoughts and prayers....I love you and am here for you. In the initial phases of grief I was annoyed with the following comments (although they were well intentioned)....they are in a better place...life goes on.....at least you will have memories. As long as you acknowledge the death in a compassionate way that will be good. I was hurt by some friends who didn't acknowledge the death of my dad. I also appreciated the ones who would check in on me months after their deaths or would remember me during the holidays.

The best thing you can do is listen. That person will need to vent and blow off some steam. At the time of death, there is nothing you can say that will make a person feel better.

You don't say anything...you sit and listen to them while they grieve. You let them cry on your shoulder. If it is someone who you hardly know, you more than likely won't be around the person who is grieving. If you don't really know him/her and consider them an acquaintance who you pass by every once in awhile and he/she knows you as an acquaintance, then you would say: I am so sorry for your loss. If you are in a position to comfort them because you are close to them (more than an acquaintance).... Be there..listen...listen...listen or more precisely do some active listening.

Just be there, it is all you can do. Don't say you understand. Don't say it will be okay. Just tell them that you are sorry for their loss, and make yourself available and listen if they need to talk.

(Story compiled from personal accounts posted on ExperienceProject.com)

Bible intro

This is a psalm reminding us of the great comfort that comes only from God. Reading it is a good reminder that God is always there. In our hardest times, and in our happiest times, we should turn to God. Sarah Young, author of the devotional book, Jesus Calling, believes that God urges us to:

“THANK ME for the very things that are troubling you. You are on the brink of rebellion, precariously close to shaking your fist in My Face. You are tempted to indulge in just a little complaining about My treatment for you. But once you step over that line, torrents of rage and self-pity can sweep you away. The best protection against this indulgence is thanksgiving. It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time.

Thanking Me for trials will feel awkward and contrived at first. But if you persist, your thankful words, prayed in faith, will eventually make a difference in your heart. Thankfulness awakens you to My Presence, which overshadows all your problems” (Young).

If we turn to God for the little things, we will automatically turn to him for the big things that occur in our lives. 

Personal Questions
1. Have you ever done any of the things suggested above? If partso, which part(s)
2. Can you identify what emotions are dominant in your heart right now? If helplessness and despair are big ones for you, how do you plan to handle and process those emotions?
3. Do you believe that asking God for help and comfort right now makes a difference? Is that something that is easy or hard for you to do?
4. What sort of situation do you think the Psalmist (the person who wrote the psalm above) was in when he wrote that prayer to God? What did they believe about God? What were they feeling?
5. How do you think faith influences your relationship with your friend? How resilient do you think you are when you face these kinds of trials that a military family goes through?

Dear Jesus,
My friend’s pain is overwhelming. The numerous thoughts and feelings I have right now are too much. I don’t know how  to help them get through this. I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing. I feel many emotions right now but I’m also struggling with how to express to my friend what I’m feeling. This is too much for me to handle. I can’t do this. I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this without you. Please listen to me. Please see and know all that I’m going through right now and give me the help I need. I’m so lost I don’t even really know what I need right now but please God give me your perfect peace. Keep me firm in your purpose and let me feel your presence here, now, during all of this. I am so heartbroken. I can’t do this without your guidance. Please help me.


King David wrote many of the psalms, and this one references Jerusalem at the very end. This is what Jerusalem would have looked like during the time of King David. Real human drama happened here just like it does where you live.



The reality is that this may be too much for you to handle. The grief that your friend is experiencing over the death of their mom or dad may seem insurmountable. Instead of trying to handle it all on your own or look for help from other friends who may be over their head, have the courage to seek out help from people who are experienced and educated. One resource is through your youth leaders and chaplains. Other parents and trusted adults can help, too. Perhaps your base has grief counselors. They can help you or connect you with someone who is equipped to guide you. Another can be found though the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
For more information go to: http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/Bereavement_Counseling.asp


Help Guide: Help Guide dot com has an article about helping a friend through loss and grief. It discusses what to say and what not to say to your friend who is grieving. Read this article with your friend and, if you’re both comfortable, with your families. Discuss what they believe would be the most helpful during this hard time and what they agree/disagree with about the article.



Psalm 31:9

Psalm 147:3

Matthew 5:4

John 14:27

John 14:18

Psalm 46:1

Psalm 30:5b


Watch this clip from the movie Soul Surfer. Bethany, after losing her arm, is struggling to understand how this is a part of God’s plan for her life. In her eyes, her future is ruined. 



This video is from the television series Heartland. Amy Fleming struggles to help a grieving man reunite with his injured horse, while at the same time coming to terms with the death of her mother. Watch how her friend Ty comforts her. Compare his comfort methods to Sarah’s in the Soul Surfer clip.




From the movie, The Karate Kid, in which Dre helps comfort his grieving friend:



Life Questions
1. Rewrite Psalm 116 in a journal or notebook. Make the words or phrases that are important to you bigger, give them shapes and colors. Use drawing, writing, etc to express the parts of the psalm that describe your soul right now and spend some time articulating those feelings to God.

2. Look at the Supporting Scripture section and choose one to memorize this week. Put it by your bed, fridge, locker, or somewhere you will see it multiple times a day. Tell your friend why you chose that verse and what you both need to understand about Jesus Christ’s presence in your lives.

3. Write your own psalm, poem, or prayer and try including the 3 components from Psalm 116 – That God is present in your life, that your emotions (no matter how conflicting or extreme) are real, and that his love is constant and all encompassing. If words won’t come to you at this time, find another way to communicate these things to God like drawing, dancing, making a video, whatever way you find easiest to talk to Jesus.