“Keep encouraging one another and building one another up.”—1 THESSALONIANS 5:11.
1, 2. Why do we need to discuss how to comfort those who are grieving? (See opening picture.)
“FOR almost a year after the death of our son, we felt deep and excruciating pain,” said Susi. After his wife died suddenly, one brother said that he experienced “indescribable physical pain.” Sadly, many people experience this kind of pain. In the Christian congregation today, many of our brothers and sisters did not expect their loved ones to die before Armageddon. Perhaps someone you love has died, or maybe you know someone who is grieving. If so, you may wonder, ‘How can a grieving person find comfort?’
2 Some people say that time can heal all wounds. But is this always so? One widow said, “I have found it more accurate to say that it is what one does with one’s time that helps one to heal.” A physical wound needs time and tender care in order to heal. In a similar way, it takes time and tender care to heal emotional pain. What, specifically, can help those who are grieving to lessen their emotional pain?
JEHOVAH IS “THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT”
3, 4. Why can we be sure that Jehovah understands our grief?
3 Our compassionate Father, Jehovah, is the main one who gives us the comfort that we need. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.) He is the greatest example of empathy, and he promises his people: “I myself am the One comforting you.”—Isaiah 51:12; Psalm 119:50, 52, 76.
Jehovah really looks forward to the day when he will resurrect faithful men
4 Our loving Father has also experienced the loss of loved ones, such as his servants Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and King David. (Numbers 12:6-8; Matthew 22:31, 32; Acts 13:22) The Bible shows us that Jehovah really looks forward to the day when he will resurrect those faithful men. (Job 14:14, 15) At that time, they will be happy and enjoy perfect health. Jehovah also experienced the death of his firstborn Son. The Bible says that Jesus was the one God was “especially fond of.” (Proverbs 8:22, 30) We cannot even imagine how distressing it must have been for Jehovah to watch his Son die a painful death.—John 5:20; 10:17.
5, 6. How does Jehovah comfort us?
5 We can be absolutely sure that Jehovah will help us. So we should always feel free to pray to him and express our intense pain and grief. How comforting it is to know that Jehovah understands our feelings and that he gives us the comfort we need! But how does he do that?
6 One of the many ways Jehovah comforts us is by means of his holy spirit. (Acts 9:31) Jesus promised that our Father would give his powerful holy spirit to all those who ask him for it. (Luke 11:13) Susi, mentioned earlier, says: “There were so many times when we just dropped to our knees and implored Jehovah to comfort us. Every single time, the peace of God truly guarded our hearts and minds.”—Read Philippians 4:6, 7.
JESUS ALSO UNDERSTANDS OUR FEELINGS
7, 8. Why can we be sure that Jesus will comfort us?
7 When he was on earth, Jesus perfectly imitated his Father’s beautiful qualities by what he said and what he did. (John 5:19) Jehovah sent Jesus to the earth to comfort “the brokenhearted” and “all who mourn.” (Isaiah 61:1, 2; Luke 4:17-21) People knew that Jesus understood their suffering and really wanted to help them.—Hebrews 2:17.
8 When Jesus was young, he likely had close friends and family members who died. For example, it seems that his adoptive father, Joseph, may have died when Jesus was still a young man.* (See footnote.) Imagine how difficult it must have been for such a caring young person to endure his own grief, as well as the sorrow of his mother, brothers, and sisters.
9. How did Jesus show empathy when Lazarus died?
9 During his ministry, Jesus showed that he really understood people and had empathy for them. For example, when his close friend Lazarus died, Jesus felt the intense pain that Mary and Martha experienced. His empathy for them was so strong that he began to cry, even though he knew that he was going to resurrect Lazarus.—John 11:33-36.
10. How can we be sure that Jesus understands how we feel today?
10 How can Jesus’ comforting words from the past help us today? The Bible makes it clear that Jesus has not changed. It says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) He is called “the Chief Agent of life” because he makes it possible for us to live forever. Jesus also understands grief personally and “is able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test.” (Acts 3:15; Hebrews 2:10, 18) So we can be sure that Jesus is still affected when others are in pain. He understands their grief, and he is able to give them comfort “at the right time.”—Read Hebrews 4:15, 16.
“COMFORT FROM THE SCRIPTURES”
11. Which scriptures are particularly comforting to you?
11 The account about Jesus’ intense grief at the time of Lazarus’ death is just one of the many comforting scriptures found in God’s Word. This does not surprise us because “all the things that were written beforehand were written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) If you are grieving, you too can find soothing comfort from such scriptures as the following:
“Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those who are crushed in spirit.”—Psalm 34:18, 19.
“When anxieties overwhelmed me, you [Jehovah] comforted and soothed me.”—Psalm 94:19.
“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave everlasting comfort and good hope by means of undeserved kindness, comfort your hearts and make you firm.”—2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17.*—See footnote.
THE CONGREGATION IS A SOURCE OF GREAT COMFORT
12. How can we comfort others?
12 Grieving ones can also find comfort in the Christian congregation. (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:11.) How can you strengthen and comfort those who have “a crushed spirit”? (Proverbs 17:22) Remember that there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) A widow named Dalene explains that those who are grieving need to express their thoughts and feelings. Therefore, the most important thing you can do is to listen without interrupting. Junia, whose brother committed suicide, says, “Even though you may not be able to grasp their grief completely, what counts is that you want to understand how they feel.”
13. What do we need to remember about grief?
13 We need to remember that not all of us feel and express grief in the same way. Sometimes it is impossible to explain exactly how much pain we are feeling. God’s Word says: “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no outsider can share in its joy.” (Proverbs 14:10) Even when someone does express how he feels, it is not always easy for others to understand what he is trying to say.
Often, the most helpful thing you can do is to “weep with those who weep”
14. What can we say to comfort those who grieve?
14 It can be difficult to know what to say to someone who is grieving. But the Bible says that “the tongue of the wise is a healing.” (Proverbs 12:18) Many have found comforting words to share from the brochure When Someone You Love Dies.* (See footnote.) Often, though, the most helpful thing you can do is to “weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) Gaby, whose husband died, says that sometimes the only way for her to express her feelings is by crying. She adds: “That is why I get some comfort when friends cry with me. At that moment, I don’t feel quite so alone in my grief.”
15. How might we comfort others if we find it difficult to do so in person? (See also the box “Soothing Words of Comfort.”)
15 If you find it difficult to say something comforting in person, it may be easier to send a card, an e-mail, a text message, or a letter. You could simply quote a comforting scripture, mention a special quality that you remember about the person who died, or share a happy memory that you cherish. “Receiving a short encouraging message or an invitation to spend time with a fellow Christian helps me more than I can say,” says Junia. “Those expressions make me feel loved and cared for.”
16. What is a very effective way to comfort others?
16 Our prayers can help our grieving brothers and sisters. We can pray for them or even pray with them. Even though it may be difficult to do because you feel that you may cry, your heartfelt prayer can be a powerful comfort. “Sometimes when sisters have come to comfort me,” recalls Dalene, “I have asked them if they are willing to say a prayer. They start praying, often battling to speak at first, but every time, within a few sentences, their voice gets stronger and they say the most heartfelt prayer. Their strong faith, their love, and their concern have been very faith-strengthening.”
KEEP PROVIDING COMFORT
17-19. Why do we need to keep providing comfort?
17 It is not possible to know exactly how long it will take for each person to grieve. When a loved one dies, at first many friends and relatives are there to provide comfort. But after they return to their normal way of life, those who are grieving still need comfort. So be ready to help. “A true friend shows love at all times, and is a brother who is born for times of distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) We need to comfort grieving ones for as long as they need us.—Read 1 Thessalonians 3:7.
18 Remember that a person may suddenly be overwhelmed by grief at any time. This could be because of anniversaries, certain music, photographs, activities, or even a smell, sound, or season of the year. When a grieving widow or widower does something alone for the first time, such as attending an assembly or the Memorial, it can be very painful. “I expected my first wedding anniversary to be very traumatic,” relates one brother, “and it was not easy. But a few brothers and sisters planned a small gathering of my closest friends so that I wouldn’t be on my own.”
19 Remember that those who are grieving need encouragement not just on special occasions. “Often the help and companionship offered when there is no special anniversary can be very beneficial,” explains Junia. “Those spontaneous moments are so valuable and bring much comfort.” True, we cannot take away all their grief or loneliness, but we can comfort those who grieve by doing things for them. (1 John 3:18) Gaby says: “I am truly grateful to Jehovah for the loving elders who walked me through every difficult step of the way. They have truly made me feel Jehovah’s loving arms around me.”
20. Why are Jehovah’s promises a source of great comfort?
20 It is comforting to know that Jehovah, the God of all comfort, will completely remove all grief at the time of the resurrection. (John 5:28, 29) God promises that “he will do away with death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (Isaiah 25:8, footnote) Then, instead of having to “weep with those who weep,” everyone on earth will “rejoice with those who rejoice.”—Romans 12:15.
The Bible indicates that Joseph was alive when Jesus was 12 years old. However, Joseph was not mentioned when Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine, or at any time afterward. This may mean that Joseph was dead by that time. In addition, when Jesus was on the torture stake, he asked the apostle John to care for his mother, which Jesus would not likely have done if Joseph were still alive.—John 19:26, 27.
See also the article “Comfort the Bereaved, as Jesus Did” in the November 1, 2010, issue of The Watchtower.