Leadership is not as much about
knowing the right answers as it is about asking
the right questions!
-Bob Tiede

If You Ask Me

June 10th, 2024 | Grief

Note From Bob:   How many times have you connected with someone who has lost their spouse and not quite known what to say or ask?   Or maybe even avoided making contact because you were not quite sure what to say or ask? 

Recently Cynthia Dainsberg – a longtime subscriber to my blog, emailed me to share something she had written and to ask me what I thought.   Cynthia was not submitting a draft for my consideration – she was simply sharing something she had felt prompted to write and then to share it with me.  As I read what she had written my heart was touched.  Cynthia knows what it is like to grieve the passing of a spouse.  Her husband, John was translated to Heaven on October 17, 2022 – just a few weeks shy of their 34th wedding anniversary.   I instantly responded to Cynthia, not only to share my feelings that what she had written was anointed, but to quickly ask her for her kind permission to share what she had sent me with all of you!  I was delighted when she said, “Yes!” 

Guest Post by Cynthia Dainsberg

If you ask me, are you ok?

I’ll to you, I’m okay.

If you ask me, are you sad?

I’ll tell you that I am sad every day.

If you ask me, are you lonely?

I’ll tell you that I am lonely every day.

If you ask me, do you feel alone?

I’ll tell you that I am never truly alone; Jesus is with me.

If you ask me, are things getting easier?

I’ll tell you that things aren’t easier I’m just getting more practiced at doing hard things.

If you ask me, do you miss your Loved One?

I’ll tell you that I miss my Loved One,

and every other person,


and/or thing that I’ve lost-

I miss them all every day,

to some degree.

The losses seem to all gather around each other like an expanding entangled string ball of grief.

If you ask me, how are you doing?

I’ll tell you ‘I’m doing’.

I have to keep doing.

Things need doing.

I need to do.

But mostly, I choose to ‘do grateful’, because that empowers me to keep doing.

If you ask me, how are you?

I’ll tell you that I am working through grief.

And indeed, it is work.

It is a work that one must do, and it is done in layers, with rest from it as needed.

To be wholly healthy, one must learn to process and integrate a whole array of experiences and the emotions that go with them.

Good can also happen next.

If you ask me, what is next?

I’ll tell you that I feel as if I’m aiming at moving targets.

I use a pencil for any planning I do.

Depending on the day- I may only be able to ‘see’ minutes ahead, hours ahead, days ahead, months ahead- and it gets all the foggier to wrap my head around years from now. But, I do my best to keep in mind that my decisions today will affect my tomorrow, and I take one step at a time.

If you ask me, what can I do, how can I help?

I’ll tell you I don’t know.

Instead, offer to me what you believe you can do, and when you are available to do it.

Decision fatigue is real, and even more so for those who are grieving.

If you ask me, are you okay?

I’ll tell you I’m okay.

Cynthia continues by sharing both questions you and I can ask those who are grieving along with her suggestions for all leaders who are caring for widows.

Question Suggestions to Ask One Who Is Grieving:

  • As you are sharing with me, would you like me to listen to help problem solve, or do you mostly need me to just listen as you debrief?
  • Would you like me to help you write out a list of things that need to be done next?
  • Would you like me to help you contact people who can help you with the list of things that need to be done next? (If so, which specifically, how would you like the task done, and by when- or do you just want me and the other person to fully take care of it?)
  • Are there any other phone calls I can make for you?
  • Would you like help addressing thank you cards?
  • What time of day is most difficult for you? (Would you like company, a call, a text, or prayer during that time?)
  • What is helping to make the difficult times a little more tolerable?
  • What is it that you are most missing about your Loved One?
  • Would you like company when you go to (groceries, doctor’s office, bank, DMV…)
  • I would like to help you with (cooking, cleaning, errands, yard work, housework, ‘handyman jobs’…). I can do _____________. The best day of the week and time for me is _________ at _____. I wrote this all down for you on this (paper/email/text) along with my phone number. Feel free to contact me. I will also check back with you in a few weeks (do follow up as you say you will).
  • (Bring paper goods: tissues, paper plates/cups/napkins/bowls/paper towels, disposable eating utensils)
  • Ask about food allergies/sensitivities; what is their take-out or grocery preference is. Bring any prepared foods, fresh or frozen (if freezer space is available), family size and single-serve options, marked with date and ingredients/what it is, and any baking/cooking directions.
  • If the person has children, young or adult, ask what you might do to personally help any of the children. Helping the person’s children will be a big help to them.
  • Don’t forget the person’s loss anniversary. Send a thinking of you note. Ask them if they have any plans for that anniversary. Ask them if they would like to talk about their loss; or their Loved One. What things are less difficult at this time, which things are the same, and which things are more difficult?
  • What surprises you most about the loss/grief you are experiencing?
  • What social situations are most difficult for you to attend during this time of active grieving? (Offer to accompany them, if willing and possible for you.)
  • I have my calendar open at _____ (time) on ___(date). May I come over to (visit, watch a movie, have dinner with you, have a campfire, play a board game, pray together…)? (Bring snacks/food along.)
  • What are the hardest household tasks to take care of for you, right now?
  • What is helping you get a good night’s rest at this time?
  • Currently, what foods are you finding the easiest to prepare and eat?
  • Would you be comfortable with me praying for you, out loud or silently, right now? Is there anything specific you’d like me to pray about?

To the Elders of the Church Caring for a Widow:

  • (bring your spouse)
  • Offer to pray for, or pray with, the widow.
  • Keep in regular contact- even, especially, after the funeral. Check in with her every couple of weeks, every month for the first six months- then at least once every two months.
  • Remember the anniversary of the loss- reach out to the widow.
  • Keep in contact every 3-4 months in the second year.
  • Be on the alert to discover practical needs the widow may have- and connect with the Ministry Team to meet those needs. (keep company, rides, prayer, babysitting, school function rides, church activity rides for the children, groceries, help to navigate finances, household helps…) I highly recommend teaming up with a trained and certified Stephen’s Minister (Stephens Ministry) and/or FCN (Faith Community Nurse).
  • Don’t shy away from those grieving. Acknowledge the loss, the person…
  • Don’t say, “We love you.”, or, “We are praying for you.”- unless you are indeed praying for them, and you are willing to ask if they’d like you to pray with them, now.
  • Don’t say, “We love you.”- if the statement isn’t substantiated by action. (Sometimes it is said because the one saying it is simply uncomfortable with people who are grieving and says it just to ‘say something’- it can come across as disingenuous.
  • Stay away from using platitudes. If you don’t know what this means, you may already be using them. Usually, they are ‘good things to say’, but misappropriated to the situation because the person saying them is uncomfortable, not because the phrase is necessarily helpful to the person who is grieving.
  • Offer to bring communion to the widow’s house.
  • Offer to anoint her with oil as she goes through grief.
  • Ask her what she would like, and what she would not like communicated to other staff, the church (prayer line)…
  • Discuss what she would prefer in returning to church- to engage with several people right away (extrovert) or would she prefer to come quietly (introvert; ‘come late, leave early’; have a person ‘assigned’ who will accompany her/sit with her… shield her from too many people ‘pressing in’. Going back to church is a very difficult step for many widows. They need intentional, individualized care to reintegrate themselves.
  • Offer to pray a blessing over/in the house, as a covering for this new life season therein.

(You can click HERE to read John’s obituary and click HERE to view his online celebration service.)

Cynthia Dainsberg


Cynthia Dainsberg, RN, FCN (Faith Community Nurse) is a freelance writer, author (survivor story), speaker, educator, coach, SYMBIS facilitator, INTJ, montage style muser, widow, mom of 3 adult children, and ‘gigi’ to 7 grandchildren; she had served in ministry alongside her husband (YFC and Pastorate position) for decades and on her own. Cynthia is forever grateful to the LORD for His mercy, grace, strength, steadfastness, peace, and joy.  You can email Cynthia @ sparrowsonghealthresources@gmail.com


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