Willing to Mourn with Those Who Mourn …
September 1987

“Willing to Mourn with Those Who Mourn …” Ensign, Sept. 1987, 45

The Visiting Teacher:

“Willing to Mourn with Those Who Mourn …”

Objective: To understand our responsibility to be of service to those in special need.

Recently a woman was stunned by the news that her sister had been killed in an automobile accident. There was no preparation for this loss. In her grief and sorrow over the following months, the woman wrote, “I know all the nice things to say. I have used them myself before, but they don’t help. The pain still comes in waves that rush over me and leave me useless. If only someone would let me talk about my sister for a few hours, I believe I would feel better. Everyone wants to tell me something helpful, but no one wants to listen. I know ultimately that only the blessing of the Comforter and lots of time are going to ease the hurt.”

Later the woman wrote to a friend, “I need to know if you are disappointed in me for not handling my tragedy with greater faith, acceptance, and obedience. I’ve been disappointed in myself, but I feel like something inside me is broken and has only just begun to mend.”

There are many kinds of bereavement. Parents die, children leave the Church, husbands or wives desert their families, friends or family members are diagnosed with terminal or debilitating diseases, people lose jobs or are turned into puppets by bad habits.

Most of us would like to help, but most of us feel inadequate. So we place money in a collection envelope or send a card, thus avoiding a more personal expression of our sympathy. For some reason we feel embarrassed to show deep emotion or to be near someone who is showing deep emotion.

The Spirit can guide us to know how to comfort those who grieve. Some people want to talk about their feelings. Others need someone to talk to them. Some want visitors; others prefer solitude. Following are some guidelines:

  1. Don’t say, “I know exactly how you feel.” Such a statement is never true, even if we have suffered a similar loss. It is far better to be willing to hear how that person really feels—or remain silent if the person prefers to work through the grief alone.

  2. It is also tempting to say to those grief-stricken, “Don’t feel that way. Have faith. Everything will be all right.” Of course we should have faith that everything will be all right. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “When we see back from the vantage point of the future, we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life which seemed so difficult for us to comprehend.” (Address given at Brigham Young University, 6 December 1955, quoted in Edward W. Kimball, ed., The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 37.) But having faith that everything eventually will be all right does not do away with our need to grieve. Even Jesus, with his perfect faith, wept when he learned of the death of Lazarus. (See John 11:35–36.)

  3. We should also realize that feelings of guilt accompany grief—regret for things said and done. Guilt is useful only if it prompts us to repent. Though we may not be able to “make it up” to someone who has left mortality, we can change our attitudes and plan for better eternal relationships.

  4. Do something, even though you may not know what to do. Provide a meal. Take care of the children. Iron clothes. Run errands. Listen. Pray. Pray again. One sister who lost her husband was grateful to her shy neighbor who, even though they didn’t know each other very well, came to her home and stayed with her all night and most of the next day until her daughter came. “She didn’t say much—she was just there. I was so grateful to her—it would have been terrible to have been alone.”

    In our baptismal covenants we promise to be “willing to bear one another’s burdens.” (Mosiah 18:8.) This echoes the Apostle Paul’s counsel: “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another.” (1 Thes. 5:11.)

Suggestions for Visiting Teachers

  1. Discuss ways to help and comfort someone who is in need.

  2. What did the Savior do to comfort those who sought help from him? In what ways can we follow his example?

See Family Home Evening Resource Book, pp. 106–8, 138–45, for supplemental materials.

Illustrated by Beth Maryon Whittaker