Robbie Miller Kaplan's Blog (218)

Life without both mom and dad

There were many blog posts and essays in the last few weeks on what it’s like to spend Mother’s Day and Father’s Day without either of your parents. Some were poignant, some were sad, and others expressed remorse. The writers shared their pain over relationships they’ll miss and ones that can no longer be mended. I was surprised to realize that I could no longer relate. I no…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 18, 2013 at 11:00am — No Comments

Expressing condolences via technology

An acquaintance had an aggressive form of cancer. I was kept in the loop via text messages and Facebook and so it seemed natural to learn of her death through a text. A friend of the bereaved sent a mass text, not one but a series, with funeral notifications, meal requests, and donation preferences. Friends of the bereaved began writing condolence messages on her Facebook wall.

My first thought upon hearing of the death was to send a condolence note; but I changed my…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 23, 2013 at 12:00pm — No Comments

Keeping Perspective this Mother’s Day

Many of us will spend Mother’s Day remembering mom. How you remember her depends on your perspective and how you shape your memories. Do you feel your glass is half empty or half full? While there are facets of our lives for which we lack control, we do have the ability to choose how we view our past and it’s up to us whether we make peace with it.

 

My glass is half full and so are my memories. I find the older I get, the more I focus on the positive. I not only…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 6, 2013 at 4:30pm — 1 Comment

When to use e-mail following a death

Technology has changed the way we communicate. It’s now more common to keep in touch by text than e-mail, while phone calls and handwritten notes seem outmoded or obsolete. But when it comes to a death, are these newer forms of communication appropriate, or should we rely on the old fashioned forms of communication? Here are some thoughts:

 

  1. “A friend’s father-in-law passed away and there was no immediate announcement in the newspaper regarding a service or…
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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 22, 2013 at 12:30pm — No Comments

Don’t forget dad after a miscarriage

About 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Some suggest it is even higher as some miscarriages occur before the mom even knows she’s pregnant. Despite this high frequency, bereaved parents share that far too many friends and loved ones fail to say appropriate things and some, not knowing what to say or worse, minimizing the loss, just stay away. But it’s important to remember that a miscarriage is…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 10, 2013 at 10:00am — No Comments

What you say can hurt the bereaved

Last week my friend supported a dear friend whose father died. The dad had Alzheimer’s disease and had been failing for some time. But his condition had quickly worsened and he died unexpectedly.

 

My friend attended the funeral and funeral reception and since the family is Jewish, she helped organize and attended the Shiva. She was quite surprised by some of the behavior and questions that hurt both her…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 18, 2013 at 12:00pm — 1 Comment

Creating a Caring Community

When I worked in education our office had a “Sunshine Committee.” All the money collected from coffee sales went into a sunshine fund. Any staff member sick, hospitalized, in treatment, or bereaved received a floral arrangement from the Sunshine Committee and the committee members sent cards too. The thoughtfulness from the Sunshine Committee permeated…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 1, 2013 at 10:30am — 1 Comment

Thinking of others on Valentine’s Day

When my children were young we visited my mom on Valentine’s Day. My mom lived in a retirement community and I knew many of her neighbors probably wouldn’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day so I thought we’d do something thoughtful. I had my daughters help bake and decorate valentine cookies and we packed them with ribbons. While visiting my mom, the girls walked…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 13, 2013 at 9:30am — No Comments

When sad news arrives by email

A message with the subject line “sad news” was in my email inbox this morning. I get these messages from my congregation all the time and it’s helpful to know that a member has experienced a loss so I can express condolences when I see them. But I’m always perplexed when friends, colleagues, and even family…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 1, 2013 at 11:00am — No Comments

What I’ve learned about grief and loss

Not much has changed in the ten years that I have been writing about grief and loss. There’s still a sense of discomfort in dealing with the bereaved. Friends and loved ones continue to seek the perfect words that will comfort the bereaved. They’ve yet to learn that no one thing that they say or do will make the pain go away.

 

So what have I learned that may help you…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 14, 2013 at 12:00pm — 1 Comment

Off to a caring new year

The New Year inspires us to begin anew; to assess how we can start the year in a positive state that will hopefully set the tone for the months ahead. In this frame of mind, I began the morning by dumping my in-box on my desk and sorting through all the items that were not priorities in the busy weeks and months that ended the year.

 

Buried in the heap was a holiday…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 3, 2013 at 9:00am — No Comments

In the face of tragedy

Snowflakes for Sandy Hook: a small but special way to remember those who died and help the surviving students and teachers It is easy to feel helpless with the tragic and senseless loss of lives in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Whether it is a very public or personal loss, what can we do individually or collectively to honor the memory of lives lost?

 

A colleague donated books on horses to the local library when a friend’s young daughter died of cancer. She had loved horses and this was the way he chose to honor her memory.

 

When my 20-year old…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 20, 2012 at 12:30pm — No Comments

Dealing with the holidays without your loved one

We feel the painful loss of a loved one as we move through our daily routines. The holidays can make the pain even sharper as holidays are often laced with special traditions. Maybe your spouse hung the Christmas lights or your mom baked a special cake. It could be you used your parent’s Menorah or played a certain game every year since childhood. Whatever the holiday plans,…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 5, 2012 at 9:00am — 3 Comments

When the diagnosis is terminal

We all know that death is a part of life. And yet when we learn that someone we care about is going to die, we are deeply shocked. When a friend, loved one, colleague, or neighbor is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the news is devastating. It’s possible there are treatments to prolong life or maybe there is nothing else the medical professionals can do. So how do you deal…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 12, 2012 at 2:30pm — No Comments

Thanks for listening

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 thanked me for listening.

 

It’s hard facing…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 1, 2012 at 9:00am — 1 Comment

To fuss or not to fuss

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…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 22, 2012 at 3:30pm — 2 Comments

When loss hits the workplace

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…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 10, 2012 at 8:00am — No Comments

Missing Funeral Rituals

It’s not unusual. You have a vacation booked, a work commitment, or family plans, and then someone dies. The funeral or memorial service is scheduled and you are unable to attend. What do you do when a loved one, friend, or colleague dies and you can’t change your plans? Will the family be hurt by your absence? Do you contact the family ahead of time to explain? Or, do you miss the funeral rituals and not mention it at all?



There are times when it is absolutely unavoidable…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 28, 2012 at 12:00pm — No Comments

When Friends Disappoint

In the weeks and months that follow a death, when real grieving takes place, many bereaved report that they feel all alone. The calls and visits have stopped and the friends that gathered around them in the days following the death are nowhere in sight. It’s very common for the bereaved to feel as if their friends have abandoned them when they need them most.



So what can you do if you have lost a loved one and feel utterly disappointed in your friends?



The sad…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 18, 2012 at 2:00pm — 1 Comment

Significant events without a loved one

It’s bound to happen. After the death of a loved one, life goes on. Life cycle events and milestones continue to happen; children graduate, go to college, marry, have children, and continue to grow. Life doesn’t stop with the death of a loved one.



So, how do we handle those sweet and happy moments, knowing quite well that someone is missing?



Some families have rituals. I know our family did. When my father died, he left four children, ages eleven to twenty. He…

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Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 22, 2012 at 8:00am — No Comments

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