What To Do For Someone In The Midst of Loss | Lauren Littauer Briggs

The loss of a home or possessions is often viewed as a materialistic loss, and we tend to minimize its significance and impact. What is often overlooked are the irreplaceable family heirloom-type items that are lost and the huge amount of time, effort, and money it will take to rebuild after a loss. A trunk full of baby clothes, a box of school memorabilia, photo albums and baby books are the kind of things no one or no amount of insurance can replace. 
My mom lost her Good News Bible on an airplane. It was the first Bible she purchased when she became a Christian, and she had been studying and speaking out of it for over twenty years. It had all of her original markings she had written as she made spiritual discoveries for the first time. She said, “I’ve never studied and marked up the Bible the same way since I lost that Bible.” 

There are emotional connections to our things that make a dramatic impact on us if they are lost. I lost the onyx stone out of an antique ring my Grammy Littauer gave me. A few years later, the beautifully filigreed mounting was crushed. I looked in antique stores for twenty years before I found a ring that was similar. I now wear that ring almost every day as a precious reminder of my grandmother’s love, even though it is not the same ring. 

Don’t Say

  • “Call me if you need anything.” I never asked. I was all alone. Pat Link
  • “I bet it would be fun to get to buy all new things and start fresh.”
  • “This time you’ll get a new house built from the ground up instead of having to remodel.”
  • “Remember, our home is really in heaven.”
  • “Store up treasures in heaven, not on here on earth.” Don’t try to spiritualize an earthly loss.
  • “You’ll probably have a nicer house than you had before.” I didn’t really care about what I might have in the future. All I could think about was what we had lost. Barbara Bueler

Do Say

  • “I’ve been a part of many wonderful times in your home.”
  • “I can’t begin to imagine what this must be like for you. I want to help you.” Make a specific offer of what you can to do help.
  • “Nothing can undo this tragic loss, but I want to work with you to rebuild your life.”
  • “I can see how precious that ___________ is to you. Nothing can ever replace it.”
  • “I have been praying for you ever since I got the news. How may I help you?” Offer some ideas of what you are willing and available to do.

What I Wish People Understood 

  • Once we moved into a rented house, it seemed as if most of our friends stopped calling. People had been so helpful immediately following the fire, but then it seemed as though they thought their job was done. I desperately needed people to stay close and be my friends. When I did receive the casual, “How are you doing?” I knew all they wanted to hear was, “I’m doing just fine.” I didn’t feel free to tell those people how lonely I was, how overwhelmed I was by the things I had to do. I needed people who would keep me involved, help me move and see what they could do for me. Barbara Bueler
  • We had to purchase everything new with little money to our name. Pat Link
  • I had to face the fact that all my possessions were gone. There were family heirlooms and personal things that meant so much to me. I had a trunk filled with the children’s baby shoes, clothes, and special things I’d saved to give them when they got married. It is still hard to believe that in ten minutes, it was all gone. There is nothing fun about this devastation. Barbara Bueler

What You Can Do

  • A crew of friends arrived to help clear the debris. Just when the crew was getting hungry, a woman I had only met once pulled in the driveway, dropped down the back of her station wagon, and announced, “Here’s lunch.” She’d cooked several big lasagna casseroles and made garlic bread and a salad. There was enough food for everyone.
  • Knowing that we had nothing but the clothes on our backs, Lauren volunteered to buy some essentials, if I would just write down our sizes. When she arrived, I realized that I was stalling. I hadn’t thought about what we needed, let alone the sizes. “Barbara, I know you’ll need underwear, shoes, cosmetics, nightgowns, and much more. I want to help you.” We went to the department store to shop. There, among the racks of clothes, reality suddenly hit me. I don’t even own a single nightgown! Totally overwhelmed, I sat in a chair in the shoe department while Lauren shopped throughout the store, gathering the essentials my family needed. I was so thankful to have a friend who cared enough about us to shop for me and start me thinking about the future.
  • As word got out about the fire, bags of clothing of every kind, color, and size–from fuchsia polyester pants to black mini-skirts–began arriving. Some things people knew would fit and were appropriate for our family, but many others were their cast offs–old and worn out.
  • Ladies from church held a starting over shower for me. Most of the things they brought were very practical, like appliances, linens, and tableware. But it was also fun to get some non-essentials like a beautiful crystal bud vase and a delicate set of stemware.
  • I truly appreciated those who invited us over for dinner, especially since I couldn’t reciprocate. 
    All of the above were contributed by Barbara Bueler
  • Purchase a journal for you friend. When you are together, record memories of special things that happened in that home, items that were lost, and sentimental stories that went with the things that were destroyed.
  • Because of my loss, I know to just do for people. I make suggestions of what I can do when I check in with them, but I don’t leave the ball in their court to call me to help them. Pat Link 
    All of our photo albums were destroyed. All the pictures of our children were gone. Friends went through their photos to find pictures of our family. They made copies and gave them to us. We began to compile new albums with the pictures we were given.
  • My principal drove me out of the glowing ashes that were the remains of my home. That evening, there was a knock on the door of my motel room. There stood one of my teacher friends. She hugged me with all sincerity, handed me a peanut patty, sat by my side in silence, and then left me to my solitude. Often, we had shared one of those hard, red, sugary, peanut-filled delights when we had a difficult day at school. It brought such joy to my soul. It was a ray of sunshine. It conveyed to me that she shared in my pain and the importance of the little things in life. That was twenty-six years ago. To this day when someone suffers a great loss, I am reminded that just my presence and something as small as a peanut patty speak all the words one needs to hear. Cynthia Thomas

What to Say in a Card

  • “I can’t believe this happened! I will be with you, and together we will work to rebuild your lives.”
  • “You are in my heart and in my prayers. I would like to spend every Monday with you, helping you ____________.”
  • “I’m praying for you today, and tomorrow too. I’m sure tomorrow must be frightening. I will be here for you.”
  • “You are a precious friend. May you find the courage to face tomorrow as you rest in the knowledge that we care.”
  • “May the love of those who care deeply surround you during this difficult time.”
  • “May you sense God’s presence touching all that lies before you.”


Lord, You know what a major loss this is for ___________. The job before us seems overwhelming. We don’t even know where to start. Help us to move forward, one day at a time, trusting You to supply all our needs. I want my friend, ___________, to know that I am here for the long haul. I will walk beside him/her as we begin to rebuild what has been lost. Father, You know the magnitude of this tragedy. You know all the special memories and family treasures that are gone. Bring comfort to __________’s heart. We rest in the knowledge that You care and are ever present in our lives. Amen 

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