One of the hardest things I learned from the years I’ve served in student ministry is how to navigate heartache and grief.
While I was in college, I did an internship with hospice. The experience gave me a new perspective on death and shaped my thinking on how to help families as they experienced “deep sorrow.” I got to encourage family members to make amends and to say their goodbyes so that when their loved one passed, they could experience peace. It was during the same season that my dad was tragically killed. His death shook everything in me. We had just made things right between us the night before, which further complicated my grieving process.
The reality is that grief is inevitable, but we have the hope of God’s presence.
The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” —Psalm 34:18
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.—Revelation 21:4
For our girls, heartache from a broken relationship or the death of someone close to them can be sudden and without warning, causing them to question their worth, their faith, and even themselves. But, with all of our hope found in Jesus, we can walk alongside our girls through their deepest and darkest sorrows.
Here are three ways we can help our girls navigate through their own grief and heartaches:
- Be present. This is something that doesn’t require fancy words—it’s simply showing up in the midst of their heartache or grief. I will never forget when one of our student’s parents had a heart attack and suddenly passed away. This student was new to our student ministry, and I didn’t have a close relationship with her. I recruited a few of her friends to make a cake, and we showed up at her house. We sat on the couch together, and she cried, and we cried. Little to no words were spoken. Being present means a phone call, a text, a coffee date, or just sitting with them in silence. Your presence speaks louder than you know.
- Encourage them often. As leaders we often want to fix things and that’s entirely okay. But sometimes when a girl is hurting because of a broken friendship or lost relationship, letting her grieve that loss is okay. It validates the way she feels and it deepens her trust in you while opening a door for you to be involved in the future. I believe when you shame, they run, and when you embrace, they stay. If they are grieving a death, encourage them however they feel. Some people don’t cry and some people cry a lot. In the midst of their deep sorrow, we have the opportunity to show them how turning to Jesus in the hard seasons will bring healing. Encourage counseling or journaling so that they can grieve on their own timeline and follow up with them often.
- Celebrate. I think one of the biggest misconceptions regarding grieving a loved one who passed away is that people are afraid to talk about that person. I did a poll on Facebook, asking this question: “What is one thing you wish someone would have said or not said while you were experiencing either grief or heartache?” A friend of mine who had lost her mom unexpectedly said, “The best thing people did was not make it feel weird for me to talk about her.” She went on to say, “Just because she is physically gone doesn’t mean that she isn’t present in my life every single day.” When we allow our hurting girls to celebrate the life of the person they are grieving, it genuinely aids their healing process.
Sweet friend, the seasons of heartache will come and you may or may not have the words, but that’s okay. It is your presence, your encouragement, and the celebration of the life they lost that will bring about healing, growth, cherished memories, and intimacy with Jesus (and isn’t that our goal?).
Holly Myers is a passionate, energetic, and relatable woman that strives to minister specifically to girls and women. When Holly surrendered to God’s grace, her past ultimately drew her closer to her Creator and allowed her to experience freedom. Because Christ set Holly free from the bondage she was in, she recognized a calling to speak to other girls and women that may share her same story. Holly is passionate about seeing freedom in the lives of every girl and woman.