My friend is going through a rough time. She doesn’t like email so I call her every week. She isn’t always up for a chat so when my call goes to voicemail, I leave a message that says, “Hi; I’m just checking in to say hello.” Yesterday, she answered the phone and we got caught up. As we were saying our goodbyes, she…Continue
My first instinct when I hear that someone is sick or bereaved is to head to the kitchen. I can’t think of anything more comforting than a homemade pot of soup or a home cooked meal. I thought everyone must appreciate being thought of in this caring way until I spoke with a neighbor. Her husband had cancer and during the period of his surgery, treatment, and recovery, she just wanted to be left alone. She didn’t want a phone call, company, or a meal. She preferred to handle things…Continue
While it can be hard to know what to say to friends and loved ones facing difficult times, it can be even tougher when it happens at work. It’s one thing to support a friend dealing with a difficult loss but harder to know what to say and do with relationships that lack intimacy. Here are some real-life situations with helpful strategies.
Despite working with someone day to day, collegial relationships are more like acquaintances. So how can you support a bereaved…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 10, 2012 at 8:00am — No Comments
I learned to be comfortable with the bereaved because at a young age, I was the bereaved. I witnessed firsthand how young friends, their parents, my neighbors, teachers, school officials, relatives, and family friends treated me and interacted with me upon learning that my father died.
And yet it was my mom who taught me how to comfort the bereaved. She connected by phone, cooked a meal, visited the bereaved, and continued to help long past when others ceased to…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 8, 2012 at 2:00pm — No Comments
We live in a multicultural age where many of us have family members from different faiths and nationalities. And yet when someone in our social circle or community dies and they’re from a different culture or faith, we often seem at a loss for what’s appropriate to do. If we ignore the religious and cultural rituals of the bereaved, we run the risk that our thoughtful gesture may cause confusion rather than solace.
For example, a friend was perplexed after his…Continue
Many people wonder, is it okay to send a belated condolence note? And if it is okay, how late can it be? You may be shocked to learn that many bereaved family members wouldn’t be offended by a belated condolence note.
That surprised me. Several years ago, an acquaintance died while I was on vacation. His warmth and kindness made an impression on me and I wanted to write his wife a sympathy note. Weeks turned into months and I finally wrote the note, almost one year…Continue
Many parents wonder if it’s appropriate for children to write sympathy notes. Should parents expose their children to death? And if so, at what age are children old enough to understand the complex feelings of sorrow and grief when a loved one dies?
These are tough questions to answer. From my perspective, it is never too early to learn compassion. Since so many adults struggle to write sympathy notes, wouldn’t it be beneficial to teach our children how to write…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 22, 2012 at 2:30pm — No Comments
Words might be the best way to express condolences following a death and it’s the words that stay with us the longest. Unfortunately, it’s the negative words that the bereaved seem to remember, so think carefully before you speak.
One bereaved mom told me that she still remembers what a friend said, even though her baby died thirteen years ago. “She told me my baby was in a better place. How could she be in a better place when she should be here with me?”…Continue
Years ago, it was easy to feel socially connected. You knew your neighbors and all the tradespeople. When you did your errands, people knew who you were and probably knew your family. When things got tough, word spread that someone in the community was sick, hospitalized, or died. When you moved throughout your day, people had an inkling of what was going on and asked about you and your family. Maybe someone mowed your lawn or shoveled your snow; casseroles appeared and you and…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 23, 2012 at 12:30pm — No Comments
When bad things happen, it can be hard to know what to say or do. So it’s not unusual that many of us struggle over what we’ll say and how we’ll say it. We might spend a great deal of time crafting written messages when communicating with those facing loss, carefully choosing the words to use and the method of delivery. Or we might compose verbal messages, hoping they will convey our heartfelt sympathy.
So what happens when you write appropriate messages or verbally…Continue
I’m reading a murder mystery and the victim is a male adolescent. A group of parents whose children were friends with the victim meet to console one another. One parent asks, “Has anyone been in touch with his parents?” Other parents respond, “No. What could we possibly say?”
While this might be fiction, the dilemma is not. Many people shy away from the bereaved, or even the sick, because they don’t know what to say. Or, they stay away for fear they’ll say the wrong…Continue
A member of my community died last week. The death was sudden and unexpected and the bereaved were overwhelmed. There were so many people who attended the reception after the funeral that they couldn’t fit into the home. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those people will be around to comfort the bereaved when real mourning occurs in the weeks and months ahead.
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 23, 2012 at 8:00am — No Comments
A few years back I did a radio interview on how to write a condolence note. The interviewer mentioned some distinguished public speakers, quoting passages of notes they’d written. He asked me how the general public could replicate these meaningful messages. I was shocked for a moment thinking that if anyone expected to personally write such grandiose notes, they’d be so intimidated they’d never get them done. And maybe that’s why so many people procrastinate and struggle to write…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 6, 2012 at 11:00am — No Comments
One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is, “How do I write a sympathy note?” Most of us know how to write a note; after all we’ve been writing thank you notes for many years. But addressing the topic of death is challenging; what can we possibly say to make someone feel better after losing a loved one?
Loss is painful and when someone is hurting, it’s…
One of the kindest things you can do for someone who’s lost a loved one is to help keep their memory alive through stories. I was reminded of this recently when a friend’s daughter wrote to me asking for my support in a philanthropic endeavor to honor her mother’s memory. She added, “I would also like to extend an invitation to those of you who knew my mom personally to send me a short story about my mom. It always makes me smile to know people are remembering her.”
So how do…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 17, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments
My caregiver experience was short. My 86-year-old mother was not recovering from surgery and began to fail. Despite competing pulls, an ailing parent, a job, and a teen preparing for senior prom, I rushed to my mother’s side and helped her stabilize. Ultimately, I felt quite fortunate to have had that special, loving time with her as my mom died just seven months later.
A friend became a caregiver to her mom after she was diagnosed with dementia. Her mother lives in an…Continue
The death of a child is a devastating loss and a life-changing event. It’s hard to know what to say to comfort the bereaved parents. Friends and loved ones may think the parents know best what they need so they might ask the bereaved to call if they need anything. While the sentiment is sincere, when asking, “Please call me,” it places a burden on someone grieving a loss; someone who can barely muster the energy to get out of bed in the morning.
I recently asked bereaved…Continue
Grief is a very painful and personal experience. When I recently asked bereaved adults to share their thoughts on what helped and what hurt following the death of their loved ones, I got different viewpoints. It’s apparent that we each grieve in our own way and in our own time. And yet there were a number of things that most of the bereaved agreed on; certain questions upset them and there are other questions they wish you’d ask.
So what question did the bereaved find most…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 15, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments
We adults have a lot to offer teens by way of experience so we expect teens to learn from us. And yet there are times when adults can learn from them.
When a teenager dies, it’s often a teen’s first experience with death. Teens grieve for their peers differently than adults and some of their practices are healthy. Here’s what adults can learn from teens:
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 1, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments
You may already know how difficult it is for a grieving spouse to go to the cemetery after the funeral. But did you know that they might want your company? I didn’t. This was one of the things that surprised me when I recently spoke with bereaved spouses. Here are some other things bereaved spouses want you to know:
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 20, 2011 at 9:30am — No Comments