“How to Visit Someone in Crisis”
Visiting someone in the hospital or during a crisis can be an important opportunity for developing, comforting and encouraging someone in their faith in Jesus Christ! We tend to be very receptive to the Lord when we are faced with a health crisis or surgery. Your role in that moment can be very beneficial helping them focus on Christ and His presence in their life. Here are some basic guidelines that can help you encourage them:
- Affirm what they are feeling.
People will handle a crisis in different ways. Some will appear unmoved and stoic while others tend to weep excessively. Consequently, some will feel guilty because they cried too much or not enough. It is important that you help them feel comfortable with the emotions they are feeling.
If a person is feeling guilty for not crying, remind them that numbness is very common when a crisis hits. If a person is feeling guilty for crying too much, remind them that Jesus himself cried when his friend Lazarus died, and he knew he would raise him back from the dead (John 11:35)! Help them realize that there is no “textbook” for dealing with a crisis and that each person is different. Validate them and what they are feeling!
- Be positive.
Your presence, hope and faith can bring an uplifting experience even in the most dire of circumstances. Do not focus on the negatives or the “what ifs” of the situation. People tend to cling to those and to the speculation or “guesses” that the doctors initially express. Focus on what you hope will happen, any progress made or how you will be praying for them. Having the patient see your hope and faith can help lift their spirits and focus on the Lord for strength.
- Be personal.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of your presence. It helps ward off loneliness, isolation, fear and feeling unloved. People will feel comforted just by having you there. Calling them by their first name, acknowledging others in the room, or simply holding their hand can have an encouraging effect. It’s okay to talk about other matters of life that are of interest with the patient or others in the room.
- Keep your visit brief.
Unless they specifically request you to stay, or extenuating circumstances require it, you need to keep your visit brief (15-20 minutes). It is better to make frequent, shorter visits, then one long visit. It takes energy from the patient to “entertain” guests and visitors.
- Resist theologizing.
It is very common for people to question God during a crisis and wonder way things happen the way they do. Please do not attempt to answer complex questions within the time you have! More damage, confusion and setbacks can occur when we try to offer trite answers or popular phrases. You can give them a biblical perspective without a long, complex discourse.
- Never, never, never trade “Horror” stories!
One of the elements that make a care-giver effective are shared experiences of crises. We know what a person is feeling because we, too, had a similar experience. It is important not share these “horror stories” in an attempt to help the individual connect with us. Stories of surgeries, injuries, lost loved ones need to be downplayed or just briefly mentioned if at all. DO NOT take the focus off of the individual or go into any detail. This generally exacerbates the person instead of encouraging the person.
- Remind them of Christ’s presence.
Reassure them that God is present with them during this hardship and loves them very much. Offer to pray together and remind them that God can be our comfort. Reading scriptures is one of the most encouraging things we can do! Scriptures you can quote are Psalm 34:18, 23:1-6 and Isaiah 40:31.