What We Can Do When Grief Is Compounded


We’ve all been there—smack dab in the middle of a conversation or situation that compounds a heavy grief we’re bearing.

Remarks are made that drive a knife deeper into an open wound. People may offer trite words or pat answers that may, in fact, be true, but do nothing but make the pain sharper because of their lack of understanding. Some may even make comments with an edge—with an implication of how we should get over the situation or fix it or how we possibly could have prevented it to start with. The knife goes in deeper.

Other times, actions are taken—or not taken—that show a lack of sensitivity and understanding. After asking how we’re doing, someone glances at his watch repeatedly as we try to share our stories. Another knife in the heart. Sometimes our heartache is ignored—we are ignored—when people, unsure of what to say or do, carry on as if nothing is wrong. In the process, these unwitting but guilty parties compound our grief as well.

So what can we do when our grief is compounded, when the pain is made worse? How can we turn it into something positive? A few things come to mind:

  1. We can give grace. We can forgive. Chances are, the offender doesn’t even realize the pain his remarks or actions caused. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and overlook the offense. And if the person should have known better, we can still forgive. We can remember how God has forgiven us time and again and offer the same mercy ourselves.
  1. We can learn from the situation. Any time and every time our grief is compounded, we can make a mental note to avoid such remarks or actions in our own dealings with those who are hurting. We can guard against compounding others’ grief in the future.
  1. We can educate and enlighten others. We can share the lessons we’ve learned during our season of grief as opportunities arise. Depending on the situation and the people involved, it might even be appropriate and helpful to let an offender know how his actions or words caused hurt.
  1. We can draw closer to God as we handle the hurt. We can go to God with every fresh heartache. We can tell him all about it. In his arms we’ll find comfort and understanding. We can see the hurtful situation as one more opportunity to go deeper in our relationship with God.

Grief compounded doesn’t have to win, doesn’t have to have the final say. God can help us even through this. God can redeem the pain-made-worse. Let’s allow him to do so.

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 KJV

*What are some ways we can avoid compounding the grief of others?

 *Flickr photo by Thomas Leuthard, Creative Commons License


  1. Elece Hollis says

    It is so scary to say something because you don’t want to bring the pain to the surface, but I think it is so important to let the grieving person know that you care. The pain is already at the surface and it is healing to know people love you and care. It is easy to say the wrong thing though. We are all so self-centered too that we do forget that people are hurting all around us.

    • I agree, Elece. It’s so important to let people know that we love and care. Sometimes the simplest things are the best to say – “I’m so sorry”, “I love you”, “how are you doing?” If nothing else, they will remember our love.

      • Connie Cox says

        Saying “how are you doing?” has always been something that I, personally, never ask. While grieving, most people aren’t doing great. If the grieved is also in the anger stage, asking them how they are doing might bring more conversation than is expected. I avoid asking the question.

  2. Debbie Henry says

    Well said.

  3. Thanks, Jennifer. I think everyone’s grief is compounded at times — it just goes with the territory. I’m hoping that talking about it helps us all be more aware and then gives us some ideas of what we can do when it happens to us.

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