What to say to a grieving friend: A powerful Disney lesson

Art imitates life AND gives us friendship lessons. In “Inside Out” ~ the Disney-Pixar movie ~ we learn from Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong what to say to a grieving friend and what NOT to say.

Disney-Pixar’s recent blockbuster Inside Out joined the ranks of children’s cartoons layered with life lessons more adults resonate with than the tiny tots sitting beside them. This one definitely needs the rating warning: PMC. That is ~ Parents May Cry.

After its release, I saw many who were digging deep into the lessons illustrated so expertly.

The hands-down MOST poignant moment in my opinion, however, has received less fanfare than the more obvious moving moments or funny scenes. This scene wasn’t in the clips or pre-release trailers. It’s not on any of the quotable lists.

Art imitates life AND gives us friendship lessons. In this most important lesson from "Inside Out" ~ the Disney-Pixar movie ~ we learn from Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong what to say to a grieving friend and what NOT to say. Friendship quotes, Disney quotes, encouragement from Scripture.

What to say to a grieving friend (Disney style)

As the animated emotions Joy and Sadness try to escape the maze of long-term memory to return to headquarters, they meet someone who can help them get back: Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend. Along the way, Bing Bong experiences a significant loss — at least it’s major for an imaginary half-cotton candy, half-dolphin creature.

Bing Bong’s distraction with his grief curtails the mission. Joy dances around trying to get his mind off the problem so they can all get back on track. Bing Bong doesn’t budge.

Sadness walks over and sits down on the edge of the cliff beside him and says, “I’m sorry they took your rocket. They took something that you loved. It’s gone. Forever.” Joy stops her, telling her not to make him feel worse.

But then something unexpected and puzzling happens. Bing Bong begins to open up to Sadness, talking about Riley. Sadness listens and responds, “I bet you and Riley had great adventures.” The conversation continues this way and eventually he lets out a big ‘ole candy cry and hugs Sadness. And then he’s better. And he’s ready to resume the mission.

Turns out Sadness knew what to say to a grieving friend after all.

Cut to Joy, who is completely perplexed by the whole scene. She timidly approaches Sadness and whispers, “How did you do that?”

“I dunno know. He was sad. So I listened to what …”
The conversation is cut short, but everyone watching can fill in those blanks.

For many, it might have just been a touching moment. For me, it was a masterpiece. Art imitates life.


Art imitates life AND gives us friendship lessons. In this most important lesson from "Inside Out" ~ the Disney-Pixar movie ~ we learn from Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong what to say to a grieving friend and what NOT to say. Friendship quotes, Disney quotes, encouragement from Scripture.


Sadness is not the enemy of joy

Look around on this site and you’ll see evidence of how foundational a concept I believe the following is in ministry, parenting, friendships, etc.:

People can’t hear
the hope you offer
for their hurt
until they know
you heard
how much it hurts.

There is certainly a time for trying to cheer up a loved one or even a new one God has placed in our paths. Those who are down need help to look up beyond their own small world and catch a bigger vision. They need an infusion of truth and prompts to remember all they DO have to be grateful for. Scripture is full of admonitions about joy and embracing an attitude of rejoicing always.

As someone who has been there, I humbly submit this hypothesis:

Believers who are down and discouraged are the ones MOST aware of what Scripture teaches about joy. In fact, the enemy and their own faulty flesh use those godly, biblical standards as a weapon to further crush their spirit. They serve as reminders of their failure to obey, their inadequacy to bring glory to God, and their apparent lack of spiritual discipline.

The problem is not the biblical standard well-meaning saints try to uphold. The problem is the path they often choose to guide the limping on the journey to that place of hope and repair.

At times, the hurting need to be cheered up and pointed toward truth. But there are also times when they just need someone to listen, to cry with them, and to hurt for them.

Just because Romans 8:28 appears before Romans 12:15 doesn’t mean we have to quote 8:28 before we act on 12:15.
Not every situation needs our salt. In fact, salt in a wound stings.

Here’s the bottom line:
Sadness is not the enemy of joy.
It is the friend of empathy.
And often, we need to be the shoulder of empathy before we can be the voice of truth.

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Inspiration to persevere in your God-given calling and tips on how to minister to friends who are down.
Encouraging the encourager through hope and help.

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Making Life & Words Count!


10 responses to “What to say to a grieving friend: A powerful Disney lesson”

  1. vern Avatar

    Friend “sadness is not the enemy of joy.
    It is the friend of empathy.”

    for only in sadness can you meet “Friend Empathy” and Jesus, the God of all Comfort.

    2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (KJV)
    3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
    4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
    5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
    6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
    7 And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

    I have a desire to write. So I am sending you a link to my FB note.
    please you any thing you wish
    One of the things I wish to include in my journey with Jesus is found in this link
    I sense that you as well as others also have this desire.


    1. Christi Avatar

      Keep writing and inspiring others to turn their eyes to the only one who offers true comfort, Vern. Honored to be on this journey with you.

      God Bless!

  2. Rebekah Avatar

    I watched this movie this summer with my kids and this exact idea was what jumped out of the movie and stayed in my heart, too. Unfortunately, due to things I have going on in my life, and my own grief and sadness that I’m processing through, I haven’t been able to write much about it – too painful. You’ve hit the nail right on the head with the empathy side of it. Thank you!

    1. Christi Avatar

      I’m so sorry that grief and sadness has been such a traveling companion for you, sweet friend. But I’m not surprised that the writer in you saw this message also. Empathy is your strong suit and all that you are offering to your readers is a gift.

  3. Karen Avatar

    Your blog reminds me of what Paul wrote in 2 Cor 1. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, SO THAT we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Our pain can help us be more compassionate and caring toward others if we allow it to do so. thanks for your post!

    1. Christi Avatar

      I have had the verse on my mind for months now! You have nailed my thoughts to this screen. We are kindred spirits on this. Thanks for being here and letting me know.

  4. sarahgirl3 Avatar

    I too loved that scene! We can’t just gloss over the heartache and pretend it didn’t happen. Acknowledging the pain brings healing.

  5. helloredds Avatar

    Good Morning, Christi!

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve been praying about a way that I could encourage other bloggers who have been encouraging me. Through your ministry, posts, words, comments, and faithfulness—your life has been a blessing to mine, and I wanted others to know about you!

    So, I compiled a list of those bloggers who I’ve personally found to be the MOST INSPIRATIONAL on the web.

    You are ONE Of these bloggers – in my estimation!

    You can find the link to the list where you are featured here: http://www.melanieredd.com/the-100-most-inspiring-christian-blogs-on-the-web/

    I’ve also signed up to get your emails, and tried to follow you on your social media outlets!

    I pray that God will encourage you today through these simple acts~

  6. Belinda Avatar

    The kids and I were talking about this just last night. We must watch it again as there was so many life lessons. Yes the connection between Sadness and Joy was a significant lesson for me too – one I’m still thinking about as it really does squash some paradigms.

    1. Christi Avatar

      Hi Belinda! Yes, I’ve seen it twice and still don’t think I absorbed all I could. Wouldn’t you love to see the brains of the brilliant artists who came up with all that? Thanks for being here!

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