encouragement,  Fellowship,  Friendship

Helping A Sister Through Sadness

Helping a Sister Through Suffering

By Holly Scheer

Sometimes a sister we love is suffering, and for all our desire to help, we simply don’t know what to do. Whether it’s a grief that stretches over time or a temporary sadness, the suffering of our loved ones and friends is difficult to bear.

Here are some simple suggestions for showing care and concern for a suffering sister.

  1. Pray for her.
    Sometimes it can feel trite to tell someone we’re praying for them but it’s not. Prayer is powerful and should be our first step. Pray for her, and pray with her if she wants. Ask if she wants to be added to the prayer list at church.
  2. Listen to her.
    Let’s be real, sometimes it’s hard to listen to a stream of sadness and terrible events. Either we can’t relate and it makes us uncomfortable, or we can relate too much and it thrusts us into our own private hurt. Despite our super-connected culture we are generally unaccustomed to focused, deliberate listening. Take a pause, turn off the smart phone (or don’t if you’re talking to her on the phone, because that’d be rude), and listen. Even if you don’t know what to say, it’s okay. Just listen.
  3. Remember her.
    Grief is a tricky, nasty thing. It lingers and stays far longer than we’d like at times. It waxes and wanes, and just when we think we’ve kicked it, there it comes again to ruin our day. Even if time has passed — especially if time has passed! — call her or write her a letter or a text telling her you’re thinking about her. Let her know you love her and you’re wondering if she’s okay. Be prepared for her to say she’s not or for her to say she is.
  4. Be real with her.
    When a friend has experienced a life-altering event, it can be difficult for us to relate about things other than that event. Does every conversation need to focus on it? Is it okay to laugh or talk about other things? Spoiler — it is. Don’t stop treating your friend like, well, a friend. She’s still your sister. She’s still there, under the sadness, and it’s not wrong to include her in things unrelated to grief. It may be a welcome respite for her.
  5. Encourage her.
    Please, tell her that this thing, whatever it is, doesn’t remove her from the family of believers. Ask her how you can help. Offer what you can.

How do you help your sisters (both in our families and in the church) when they’re grieving?

Photo Credit: “Sisters by Heart” licensed under CC<h/6>


  • Kate Thoelke

    great! I would add to never say “at least…” As these words are not comforting. Never attempt to make one feel better by having them see what they still have which really comes across as losing the right to grieve. Grief is tricky and painful, as the author states. Feel free to point out what a loss it was as this does validates the grief. This is walking the journey with a sister.

  • Kelly

    Things I find myself doing/have done to help grieving sisters:

    Pray for God’s continuing comfort/provision of strength (w/ or on behalf of grieving sister) as well as for wisdom on my behalf,that I’d not say something insensitive or unthinking

    Make phone calls (in on instance–almost every day for first year following death of loved one; or on special days –like birthdays (for sister/death of loved one), anniversaries for wedding (and death of loved one), Mother’s Day, etc.

    Send cards/notes for all of the above–even give small gifts/take sister out for tea/meal on those special days when deceased would have done so

    Help w/ children of grieving sister–but be specific with the offer. Otherwise she likely won’t ask you. I.e.–don’t say, “If you ever want me to take the children for a few hours…,” but instead say, “Why don’t you let me take your children to the park [on thus and such a date and time].”

    Offer to help in other unexpected ways that deceased would have done–again, make specific offers, don’t say “If you ever….” (i.e.–transport to and from medical appts., get groceries/make meals when sister isn’t feeling well, plant flowers, go to children’s school events w/ grieving sister, as these can be lonely reminders of loved one’s death)

    Get sister out so she doesn’t sit too much by herself, thereby allowing depression to get a foothold–encourage her to join you (and others)for community social events and volunteer opportunities (i.e.–book club, an evening @ theater, visit with shut-ins, etc.)

    Be a good listener; don’t judge–continually point to the cross for comfort and strength

    Help her foster new (maybe even unlikely!)friendships so she doesn’t become too dependent on my friendship alone

  • Kelly

    I forgot to add that I’ve even given a Nerf gun w/ “ammo” for sister to shoot at deceased loved one’s picture (I only did this b/c of my special friendship w/ this sister–this definitely wouldn’t be appropriate for just anyone). I wanted to remind my grieving sister that her feelings of anger towards deceased loved one were a normal part of the grieving process–and we both laughed and cried at the thought of using her deceased loved one’s picture for target practice (I do think she used the Nerf gun a few times when needed!).

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