Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hallmark Answers

If you've been following along, I've been posting my thoughts about Molly Piper's How to Help a Grieving Friend series. It's a great series and I encourage you to read all the posts if you want to know how to help out your grieving friend. Anyway, her post on Avoiding the Flippant Comfort of Hallmark Answers is a great post on what not to say. ;)

I have to admit that "Hallmark answers" are some of the hardest things to hear when you're grieving and thankfully there weren't many who offered these comments during the early part of our loss. Thanks to God and my wonderful husband for helping guard my mouth when I did receive those "Hallmark answers." I was able to hold my tongue and not comment back with something rude, sarcastic and mean.

I think this is one of the most helpful posts of Molly's series and I really encourage you to read the entire thing. I think as Christians, we have a tendency to focus on making everything "all better" so the hurting don't have to hurt. Sometimes we just need to jump in the puddle and splash around a bit to let people know that we're really there for them. Here are a few quotes from the post (and again, you should read the whole thing):

"I remember being frustrated that all the sympathy cards were just…so…pretty."
"Hallmark seems to offer comfort and explanation too quickly or lightly. Unfortunately, real people do this too sometimes. I think this tendency, even when offering “spiritual” comfort and explanation, comes from an inability to accept or understand grief.

"I know that I was this kind of well-meaning comforter before we lost Felicity [their stillborn daughter]. People in too much pain made me nervous. I wondered if they might be losing their faith, so I felt the need to say something quick to patch up their brokenness. I was unable to easily reconcile my view of God with the pain I encountered.

"The result of this kind of nervousness and discomfort is often Hallmark answers—flippant comfort. It’s as if when we say something like, “God is good. God is good,” we’ve fixed the problem for ourselves. But where does that leave the brokenhearted?"


"The problem isn’t that Hallmark answers are false. They’re just inadequate because they don’t get deep enough to touch the pain. If you haven’t entered the person’s pain, even declarations of God’s goodness or sovereignty can feel like Hallmark answers.

"Speaking into someone’s pain requires empathy. Choked words through tears are empathetic. Offering supplications and prayers with loud cries and tears, like Jesus, is empathetic. Speaking a verse with a posture of 'I don’t understand how this all fits with your pain, but…' is empathetic."


"The point is not that you have to have suffered more than someone to comfort them; you just need to empathize... ...I discovered that once you have entered someone’s pain, then you are in the place to offer comfort, and it won’t be from Hallmark."

I was blessed by the words of some wonderful people in the early days of our loss. And again I am being blessed by my dear friends who are willing to puddle with me and then pull me out and ask me some seriously convicting questions. And I am blessed.

Check out the entire post by Molly, Avoid the Flippant Comfort of Hallmark Answers.

If you want to read more of my thoughts on Molly's series, click here.

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