Robbie Miller Kaplan's Blog (218)

What caregivers want you to know

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…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 3, 2011 at 9:30am — 1 Comment

Recollections of September 11th

My phone kept ringing the morning of September 11th as I worked with a client. I finally answered and learned the first airplane had hit the World Trade Center; and then the second. I quickly concluded the appointment and watched the news. I then walked outside, and despite the beautiful fall day, my suburban DC neighborhood was eerily quiet. There were no airplanes or helicopters overhead; no dogs were walked and no children played outside. No cars entered my neighborhood. It…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 8, 2011 at 10:00am — No Comments

How to help a grieving parent

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…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 1, 2011 at 9:00am — 2 Comments

The bereaved share what helps and what hurts

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…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 15, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments

What adults can learn from teen grievers

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:


  1. Teens grieve in groups. They congregate together during the funeral and afterwards. They…

Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 1, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments

What grieving spouses want you to know

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:


  1. The most helpful thing may be to check in after the funeral, and in the weeks and months ahead. Nothing elaborate is needed; a handwritten note or an email…

Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 20, 2011 at 9:30am — No Comments

Staying connected during difficult times

Overwhelmed with stress after her mother’s death, a reader wondered if it was okay to email her friends to let them know her mother died. A caring friend felt it was fine and offered to do the emailing. This helpful gesture relieved the bereaved daughter of a tough task.


Anyone who has had to cope with a loved one’s illness or death is well aware of the added stress in keeping family members and friends informed. The flashing message light on the answering machine becomes…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 12, 2011 at 3:30pm — No Comments

Reaching out on Father's Day

It's become hard to escape Father’s Day, as the holiday, like Mother's Day, has taken on a commercial spin. You’ll find restaurants touting special menus, stores producing Father’s Day catalogs, and every type of greeting card you can imagine, for dad, grandfather, son, uncle, cousin, friend, or you name it.

So if you can’t escape it, how do you take the sting out of the first, or second or third for that matter, holiday that a friend or loved one experiences without their…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 6, 2011 at 8:30am — 2 Comments

Extending support in the wake of natural disasters

With tornadoes and floods dominating the news, it’s easy to feel helpless in the wake of such personal tragedy. In this technology-driven world, we’re witnessing breaking news, reading, seeing and hearing first-hand how these disasters personally impact individuals and communities. Who can forget the faces of those interviewed after losing their loved ones, homes, schools and places of employment?


We’ve seen acts of courage, heroism and extensions of human kindness, but with…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 3, 2011 at 11:30am — No Comments

In memory of poppies

Every Memorial Day, I look for red poppies; the crepe paper variety, sold by veterans. I usually find mine outside a grocery store. And I wear it all day.

The poppies evoke such a special time in my life that I usually find a visible place to display them long after the holiday. And when I see one around the house, it brings back vivid memories of my father and the Memorial Days we shared while I was a little girl.

My dad was a veteran of…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 16, 2011 at 8:00am — 2 Comments

Finding joy without mom

My mom and I were extremely close and talked about everything. But we never discussed how I was going to live my life without her. This became abundantly clear in the weeks and months that followed her death; confident and sure-footed me was completely lost.


I couldn’t have imagined all those years ago that I would find joy without her, but I have. She wouldn’t have wanted her death to sap the pleasure from my days and thankfully, it hasn’t.


The mourning…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 2, 2011 at 8:00am — 10 Comments

Dealing with Inappropriate Comments

Someone, at some point, will say something inappropriate and potentially hurtful when you’re dealing with illness or death. There’s no getting around it; it happens. Maybe we should just face the reality that it’s part of the process.


I’ve learned through my own experience that most people truly do not mean to hurt us; they just don’t know what to say and through either their discomfort or lack of experience with loss, they say something totally…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 4, 2011 at 3:00pm — 3 Comments

When to involve children in the bereavement process

We know how to respond to a death in a friend’s family, but what happens when the death is in the family of your child’s friend? Is it appropriate to involve children when supporting the bereaved family? That’s what one mom wondered. Her daughter’s best friend’s granddad died. The mom planned on writing a condolence letter to the family and asked, “Should my daughter write one too?”


At what age is it appropriate to involve our children in the bereavement process? I’m not sure…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 22, 2011 at 11:30am — No Comments

Why we call it comfort food

Upon hearing difficult news, we instinctively want to comfort. It’s a logical response since the word comfort means a relief from sorrow and pain. Our family experience and cultural heritage shape the ways in which we comfort. Often the women in our families, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, used some form of food for consolation.


It seems only natural that when we look to extend comfort, we most often think in terms of food. And the foods we choose…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 8, 2011 at 4:30pm — 2 Comments

Death and social media

For many millions of us, Facebook has become a key way of keeping in touch with friends and family. Many share news of important life events like births, birthdays, anniversaries. And many also have begun to use Facebook to share news of an important end-of-life event – the death of a loved one. As explores and develops…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 28, 2011 at 10:00am — 2 Comments

How do guest book messages compare to condolence letters? And should you write both?

Many of us, following a death, have signed guest books online, at perhaps or on a newspaper or funeral home website. And many have also sent handwritten condolence notes or cards. Is it better to share condolences in the online guest book for the deceased, or should you mail a handwritten letter? Should you do both? Condolence expert Robbie Kaplan offers advice. In the end, it may be the message more than the method…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 15, 2011 at 10:00am — No Comments

How to Write a Condolence Letter

It’s hard to write condolence letters. After all, you’re dealing with death and most of us want to avoid the topic. Death makes us feel vulnerable and sad and in that state of mind, we face the formidable task of reaching out to someone who feels much worse than we do.


But condolence letters are really important. Personal messages of sympathy go a long way in…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 31, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments

Empathize, don’t minimize loss

It happens. Seeking solace, you call a trusted friend or loved one and share some sadness; a family member’s diagnosis or a colleague’s death. But instead of consolation, you’re told a story of greater loss, even more disturbing than the one you’ve shared.  You’d hoped for comfort but the conversation leaves you frustrated and feeling…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 6, 2011 at 3:30pm — 9 Comments

How to write a sympathy note when you never met the deceased

A friend’s mother dies or a colleague’s daughter is killed in a car accident. You’re touched by the loss, but you’ve never met the deceased. We all know it’s important to reach out to the bereaved and extend comfort, but how do you write a condolence letter for someone you don’t know?

When someone dies, all the bereaved have left are their memories. Sympathy notes that express your condolences bring needed comfort to the bereaved. The most…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 21, 2010 at 10:00am — No Comments

What’s the protocol for belated notifications of death?

It can happen. You pay for a death notice in the newspaper, but some friends and loved ones live out of town. Maybe you couldn’t find the deceased’s address book and old friends weren’t notified of the death. Or, while reeling from the death of your loved one, no one called a second cousin. So what do you do when you realize, months or even a year later, some folks still don’t know your loved one died?

You can do one of two things; you can…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 20, 2010 at 11:00am — No Comments

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