Sunday, 27 November 2022

T To Your Health

When a Friend is in the Wilderness Called "Heartbreak"

Once upon a time in Michigan's Upper Peninsula there lived a young minister and his family. It was a nice little family. The pastor and his wife were devoted to their children, Jonathan and Allison, the light of their lives.

The path we walked together seemed so good. The future seemed bright and secure. But late in the summer of Jonathan’s fourth year, he got sick. Five weeks later, our beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy died of an undiagnosed illness.

That’s how I entered the wilderness called heartbreak. It’s a lonely, confusing, scary place. If only I’d had a friend to walk with me and help me on this journey, I might have made it through in less than nearly 40 years.

If you have a friend who is where I once was, and you want to help, let me say two things. First, God bless you for caring, for if you didn’t care, nothing you do or say will be very helpful in the end. Second, you can help.

            Here are some suggestions:

  • Be there. Be there. Be there. Your friend needs to know she’s not alone, because you are and will be with her. You won’t abandon her no matter how long it takes, how deep it gets, or even if she doesn’t handle it according to traditional expectations of “good grieving.”

From others, she will receive mostly words; from you, she will get yourself, a person to sit in the dark and share her pain without necessarily saying anything. Almost nothing anyone says will stick with your friend, but she will never forget who came, who stayed, who wept, who cared. You.

  • Listen. Listen. Listen. For most people, the wilderness called heartbreak is uncharted territory, a confusing place without roads, maps, or compass. Very few guides really know the way through this place and beyond it, to joy, though many think they know. These rush in, offer their pat answers and pious platitudes, answer questions nobody’s asking, then leave, convinced they have fulfilled their duty.

Listening, by contrast, involves learning to ask questions, many of them designed to encourage your friend to keep going deeper until the real issue and possibly its resolution come clear.

In this process, your friend may express surprising questions or doubts, which seem quite out of character. For example, if she is deeply religious, she may say, “I am really angry at God for allowing this to happen.” Or perhaps she’ll say, “Ecclesiastes is right - life is meaningless - and then you die.”

If this kind of truthful communication occurs, don’t judge her, regardless of how uncomfortable you are at that moment. Instead, say “If I were facing what you are facing, I might feel the same way. Thank you for trusting me enough to let me see inside your soul. It is the nicest gift anyone has ever given me.” After you have validated your friend’s pain, you may be surprised what she says next.

  • Find the open door into your friend’s heart, and enter there. It may be fear, or anger, or doubt, or guilt. For me, it was guilt. I felt responsible for Jonathan’s death, and nothing anyone ever said could change that. Logic didn’t matter, because it was a matter of the heart. If only someone had come through the open door I offered, it might have saved me years of futility. This friend might have said, “Dave, it’s obvious that you feel guilty, despite all our efforts to convince you that you’re not. So, let’s take a different approach. Let’s agree that you failed Jonathan. You didn’t know everything. You couldn’t prevent this from happening. You’re guilty. But, my friend, I forgive you. You are forgiven.”

Many people who are sick feel they are a burden, and they give their family and friends this open door. But instead of walking through it, their family and friends deny the truth. “Oh, no,” they say, “you’re not a burden.”

How much better it would be to respond, “Yes, this disease is a burden, a burden that I freely choose to help you bear, because I love you.”

A sorrow shared is a sorrow diminished. The only way to truly share the sorrow of another and thus diminish it is to love that person. Simple as it sounds, this is life’s most difficult task, one which I cannot truly accomplish unless in doing so I am reflecting a greater love which I have experienced, personally, from God on the basis of faith. I hope that you, too, have experienced this love.

If not, and you wish to know more, contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Making God Visible

This book was originally published with the title: How to Help a Heartbroken Friend. This revision has been updated, with a different design and updated questions for personal study or group discussion. The table of contents includes:

  1. What to say when you don’t know what to say
  2. A loneliness that must be shared
  3. An emptiness that must be filled
  4. Healing the wounds on their own terms
  5. Becoming your friend’s soul-mate
  6. Life goes on
  7. What to do when you don’t know what to do
  8. Somebody to hold me
  9. To tell the truth
  10. Moving with the pain
  11. Beauty for ashes
  12. Seven habits of highly effective comforters

Columnist: Dr. David B. Biebel

DBiebel headshot


Dr. Biebel has authored or co-authored twenty books, including one bestseller: If God Is So Good, Why Do I Hurt So Bad? and the Gold Medallion winner, New Light on Depression. His recent releases include Making God Visible and Away in a Manger: The Christmas Story from a Nativity Scene Lamb's Point of View.

His goal is to help people attain and retain optimal physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational health (personal wholeness) so they can love the Lord with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbors as themselves. He founded Healthy Life Press ( to help new authors with something to contribute in this arena to get their works into print.

Picture Picture Picture Picture Picture


        To Purchase these or any other of Dr. Biebel's titles click HERE


Share this!

Fueling Wholesome Entertainment

TWJ Magazine is the premier publication for lovers of the written word.