When trying to come to terms with loss, someone rushing the process along is never helpful. People need space to grieve and to process what they’re facing without feeling judged. Everyone grieves differently; even couples who have lost a child each experience unique grief. Proverbs 14:10 tells us that, “Each heart knows its own sadness.” So instead of singing happy songs to a heavy heart, sit and listen. Pray. Empathize if you can and be quiet if you can’t.
A friend recently broke down sobbing when we were talking.
She said, “I hate my life. I know I need to find joy in it, but I can’t. Everyone tells me I need to come to terms with what’s happened, that I need to cheer up and move on. But that makes it even harder. I feel that I need to be happy or I’m going to be judged.”
As I listened, I was convicted. In my efforts to pull other friends out of the pit, I’ve tried to hurry their grieving along. I was reminded of Proverbs 25:20, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”
How do you feel when you take off a garment on a cold day? Exposed. Unsafe. Frigid. When we are stripped of our protection, we are exposed to the elements. Forcing someone to listen to happy songs when they are suffering can leave them feeling alone, misunderstood and unprotected.
Vinegar on soda leads to an eruption; when we keep trying to make sad people happy, they can explode in anger. Our efforts to cheer them up can feel heartless.
Singing happy songs to a heavy heart is cruel. Don’t tell grieving people that their pain is a gift. Don’t make them sing praise songs when they don’t want to.