Book Review: What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts)

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In What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts), Nancy Guthrie hopes to offer guidance and advice to those around grieving people on how to show love and care without making the hurt worse. Drawing heavily on individuals whom she had interviewed or dialogued with, Guthrie highlights common emotions and feelings that those who are hurting often experience and provide suggestions on ways to lovingly express sympathy and provide timely encouragement. The book touches a variety of practical issues that frequently stump those trying to empathize such as what are the right words to say, what tasks could be undertaken that might be helpful, and how to respond appropriately to grief shared on social media. In addition, a chapter is committed to answering common questions that Christians raise and another chapter is devoted to tackling tough questions about heaven and hell. What I appreciate most about Guthrie is her willingness to share about her own grief process after losing two of her children. In being transparent about her struggles, the observations and suggestions that the author puts forth are much more convincing and relevant to readers. An example of one observation made in the book that left a deep impression is how continuous words and actions of encouragement and care even years after can be so important to the family members. We often think that time would be the best medicine but neglect to understand that the feelings of pain, loss, and longing never disappears completely. Thus, when we affectionately share memories of the deceased individual to their family members some time afterwards, they often feel comforted knowing that somebody is still treasuring the lasting impact of their loved ones.

I would highly recommend this book to all Christians as it contains much helpful advice on how to effectively minister to those who are grieving. When tragedy strikes, most of us are ill-equipped to grieve well with those who have experienced loss. Guthrie wisely advises readers to avoid easy solutions but rather view each situation and individual as being unique and worthy of our effort to dig deep in our attempts to empathize and encourage. The author’s intention is to provide practical advice as helpful starting points in beginning to learn how to help bear the burdens of those who are hurting. May we obey Christ’s command to mourn with those who mourn and seek to enter, albeit in a limited way, the pain and suffering of those amongst us.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.

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