A young woman who was eight months pregnant gave birth to a stillborn baby. Overcome with grief, she called her supervisor at work and requested he notify her colleagues by e-mail so she wouldn’t have to individually tell her devastating news. It seemed a simple request, but when she returned to work, she learned her supervisor did not notify her colleagues and they were each stunned when she painfully shared the news. Not knowing what to say or do, they avoided her and she felt shunned and alone in her grief. After a few months, she quit her job and left the organization.

Afraid to say the wrong thing, many people stay away. But it’s important to understand how our actions, or lack of action, impact the loss that friends, family members, colleagues, and community members are experiencing.

What should you not do?

• Don’t stay away.

• Don’t avoid returning phone calls from the bereaved.

• Don’t refuse the bereaved when you are asked to help.

• Don’t disregard family wishes for donations and make them instead to your pet cause.

• Don’t avoid communicating difficult news, placing the burden on the bereaved.

• Don’t ask the bereaved to do something for you when they can barely take care of themselves.

• Don’t ask the bereaved for details.

• Don’t ask for a possession of the deceased or ask for something back that you’d given them.

• Don’t pay a visit and expect to be fed or entertained.

• Don’t expect the bereaved to reciprocate your kindness – this is one of those occasions when someone, when they are ready, will pay it forward.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle StoreClick here to order.

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