Death is an inevitable part of life and it’s something we will all experience. Even if we understand that death is unavoidable or we anticipate the death of a loved one, it is still a shocking and painfully difficult experience. No one is truly prepared to mourn the death of a loved one.

The bereaved need our support and friends and family should rally around them. It ought to be simple to reach out and communicate with them but, it is not.

When a friend’s beloved mother died another friend wanted to drop off a food gift. She called several times and our friend either wasn’t home or didn’t want to answer the phone. She finally left a message that wasn’t returned. She was frustrated because she wanted to do something caring and she asked, “Do you think it is appropriate to send an email?”

It’s not unusual to have difficulty reaching the bereaved. When you are mourning a death you are not always up for visitors or phone calls; social interactions are challenging when you are profoundly sad. So what is the best way to communicate and connect with those grieving a loss?

  1. Email is a great way to reach out. It is not intrusive; you can send a message any time of the day and the recipient can read it and respond when it is convenient for them. You can compose your message in a word processing program; proof it and then copy and paste.
  2. Phone calls will immediately connect you to the bereaved. Have an idea of exactly what you would like to say and the purpose of your call before it is placed. If you want to bring a dinner or pay a visit, say so up front. Be aware that the bereaved may not be up to chatting on the phone.
  3. A letter or note of condolence is an appropriate way to reach out whether you are out of town or local. You may want to close your letter or note with an offer to follow up, whether you will give them a call or schedule a visit. Whatever you do, make good on your promise.

The powerful emotions that accompany mourning can compromise our coping skills. Be patient with the bereaved even if you have to make several attempts to connect. It’s so important to communicate and stay connected.


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 at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "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 Store.

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