Robbie Miller Kaplan's Blog (218)

Should you write an ethical will?

When a friend’s mom died, she was left with a box of their correspondence spanning decades. The letters were vivid reminders of the close relationship they shared, but they weren’t much solace in the sad weeks and months that she painfully mourned. My friend was lost; she confided that she wished her mother had left something behind that told her how to live her life without her.…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 21, 2014 at 7:30am — No Comments

Sympathy Notes That Never Grow Old

It was time to clean my desk, so I emptied all the cubbyholes and dumped everything on the table. I sorted through old baby announcements, wedding invitations, endearing birthday cards and sweet thank you notes. I started a pile to keep and a stack to shred and then, to my surprise, I found two condolence messages tucked into eulogies from my mother’s…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 10, 2014 at 1:34pm — No Comments

Living with Loss

My mom was widowed twice by the age of 46, and she gave me some sage advice; “Life is a series of changes and you must learn to adapt to change.” At this time in my life my perspective is a bit different; I see life as a series of losses, and it’s essential that you learn to cope with those…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 24, 2014 at 12:00pm — 1 Comment

The Jewish Mourning Ritual of Sitting Shiva

Members of the Jewish faith observe Shiva, a seven-day mourning period following the funeral of a family member. The word Shiva literally comes from the Hebrew word for seven. While sitting Shiva, family members do not work and typically stay home.


How will you know if the family is sitting Shiva? There is usually an announcement…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 13, 2014 at 3:00pm — No Comments

Searching for meaning in times of loss

My mother always said, “Something good comes out of everything.” She admitted that it might be hard to see the good in the midst of a devastating experience, but she assured me that there is a silver lining somewhere. She gave my father’s death as an example. She always claimed that despite the debilitating loss, our immediate family developed and shared an intimate…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 25, 2014 at 3:11pm — 2 Comments

To the newly bereaved

A dear friend recently lost his father. His dad had a debilitating illness that lasted a decade. When a parent declines, and often the roles reverse, you grieve over time for the parent you have lost. You may assume that you have already mourned your loss, so it can be incredibly shocking to learn that after the death, the loss is piercingly painful.

I want to…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 3, 2014 at 8:00am — No Comments

When bad things happen

It happens to all of us; someone we know gets a scary diagnosis, has an accident or their cancer returns. What can we say and do when a friend, loved one, colleague or community member gets bad news?



Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 20, 2014 at 12:30pm — No Comments

Don’t judge the bereaved

A widowed neighbor finds her friends and family drifting away, She’s aware that her conversations focus on her painful loss but she’s missing her husband so much that she’s stuck. It doesn’t help when her loved ones tell her she’s spending too much time wallowing in her grief and it’s time to move on.


At work, a young colleague struggles after her second miscarriage. She can’t seem to find her emotional footing and she continues to feel poorly weeks after her…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 3, 2014 at 12:00pm — 2 Comments

Must you respond to Facebook losses?

Many of us are “on” Facebook, but we’re not really “on” Facebook. We have some friends and while we post some pictures and status updates, we do it to keep in touch with a select group of friends and loved ones. We don’t have the time or interest to read everyone’s posts, every day or even every month. So what should you do when you do scroll through some posts and read that…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 20, 2013 at 2:00pm — No Comments

A Holiday Gift of Memories

My friend had a beautiful old watch that belonged to her dad, and she wanted to get it back in working order. She took it to a repairman, and while examining the watch, he told my friend he could tell a lot about her dad by the way the watch was worn. He mentioned her dad probably liked to fiddle with the dial and showed her the worn-down areas. He then demonstrated how her dad most likely kept his hand in his pocket based on the wear on the watch’s side.…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 26, 2013 at 12:00pm — No Comments

Notifying friends and loved ones following a death

When my mother began a phone conversation with “I have some sad news,” I knew what would follow. She would share news that a friend or loved one had died. Not that long ago, it was common to hear about a death in person or by phone. A letter or note was another way to notify us that someone we knew had passed away.


That’s what happened to me last week. I…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 12, 2013 at 1:30pm — No Comments

Why write sympathy thank you notes?

When someone dies we are motivated to do something to both remember the deceased and to communicate our support to the bereaved. One of the most natural things to do following a death is to make a donation in memory of the deceased.

A donation, more lasting than a bouquet of flowers or a fruit basket, provides a tangible reminder to the bereaved that their loved one mattered. A contribution in a loved one’s…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 21, 2013 at 8:30am — No Comments

Faltering relationships following loss

Loss is hard enough, but it’s even tougher when your relationships don’t hold up. Maybe your friends or loved ones lack the time or energy for your needs or they can’t cope with the sadness or anger that follows loss. Or, they may not know how to help or have too many problems of their own. For whatever reason, it’s very sad to find that your friends aren’t there when you…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 8, 2013 at 9:30am — No Comments

Saying you’re sorry

Nothing makes you more tongue-tied than learning a friend, loved one, colleague, or neighbor is sick, in treatment, or bereaved. What can you say? And what do you do if you fear you’ve said something inappropriate? That’s what happened to a friend. She was worried she’d said the wrong thing to a sick friend and asked ”What can I do to make this right?” At first glance it doesn’t seem like a difficult question; just apologize. But there’s nothing simple about relationships and…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 24, 2013 at 8:30am — No Comments

Don’t stay away, but don’t say the wrong thing

Don't stay away, but don't say the wrong thing (Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Kelvin Kevin It’s something I’ll never forget. I was an adult student who recently returned to classes after the death of my newborn son. I was walking across campus and saw a classmate; he saw me too and before we could greet each other, he altered his path and avoided me. Decades later, I understand why he did it, but even so, the memory still stings.


Loss is very isolating and when you avoid someone experiencing loss, you isolate them even further. I’ve learned that most…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 4, 2013 at 10:30am — No Comments

In Sympathy

How to write a sympathy note is a popular topic. As one friend explains, it’s very difficult figuring out what to say to someone dealing with such sorrow. The bereaved do appreciate the caring sentiment these notes convey and they play an essential role in communicating our condolences. While I agree that it’s important to craft a sympathy message that’s comforting, it feels as if there is too much emphasis placed on a written sympathy note rather than the personal extension of…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 19, 2013 at 11:00am — No Comments

How to Say it With Empathy

It can be hard to know what to say to someone who’s experienced loss. That’s why it’s no surprise that friends, neighbors, colleagues, and community members often avoid the ill and bereaved for fear they’ll say the wrong thing.


Individuals facing loss need to feel they’re not alone and that’s why it is so important to make personal contact. I’d like to say it doesn’t matter what you say, but it does. If you say the wrong thing and offend those ill or bereaved, the…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 12, 2013 at 11:30am — No Comments

Thoughtful actions large and small

A friend faced a difficult cancer diagnosis and refused all phone calls and personal contact. Other than cards, it was impossible to reach her. I thought a lot about what I might do to help her and then remembered how much she loved the personalized cookbook I made my daughter. While looking through it she mentioned that she wished someone had made one for her. I decided I’d make her a cookbook and combed through my recipes, selecting ones I thought…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 22, 2013 at 10:00am — No Comments

Instant sympathy via Facebook

News travels fast through social media so it’s no surprise to hear about a death through Facebook. Blasts of news are so frequent that we’ve become adept in responding in similar fashion. Why send a sympathy note when with a few clicks of the keys, you’ve said your peace? With seemingly ease, people react immediately to sad news.


While I’m not a fan of posting condolence messages on Facebook, I’ve become aware of just how comforting the immediacy of support can…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 11, 2013 at 3:00pm — No Comments

No silver lining in any loss

While I’m a firm believer in the silver lining theory, I don’t think it should apply to someone else’s loss. When our loved one has an accident, disabling illness, cancer, or some other difficult diagnosis, there really is nothing good in it. It’s true that we are glad our loved one is alive but that’s no consolation to us right now if they can’t walk, talk, function, or have to go through debilitating surgery and treatments. And if our loved one has died, we’re left with a gaping…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 26, 2013 at 8:00am — No Comments

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