It happens every time I call the bereaved; they sound dreadful when they answer the phone. When they hear my voice and realize I’m calling to say hello, their tone miraculously changes and their gratitude seems to seep through the phone line.

The fact is, our phones rarely ring and when they do, it’s often a sales pitch. Phone calls are like mail; the personal touch of calls and notes have given way to the quicker, less personal exchanges such as email, text messages, tweets and Facebook messaging. And while these newer forms of communication play a crucial role in keeping us in touch, they don’t replace one of the kindest things you can do for the bereaved and that’s to take the personal route and give them a call.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of calling someone who is very sad, it’s understandable. You may even worry you might say the wrong thing. But mourning is such an isolating experience that it’s worth a bit of preparation to show your support. Here are some suggestions to spur you on:

  1. Keep the call short and simple. If you need some help, jot down some notes and follow a script.
  2. Introduce yourself and say up front why you are calling. For example: “Hi Sarah, it’s Janice. I’ve been thinking of you and just wanted to say hello.”
  3. Pause and let Sarah answer. She may pick up the conversation and if she does, let her talk. You can use short responses to keep the conversation moving such as: “I see,” or That’s hard,” or “I’m so sorry you have to go through this.”
  4. Avoid asking: “How are you?” It’s perfectly normal to be miserable after a loved one dies and most people won’t tell you the truth anyway.
  5. If you are calling just to check in you can end the call by saying: “I’m so glad we had some time to talk. Take care of yourself.”
  6. If you’d like to visit, say so: “If you’d like some company I would be happy to visit.”
  7. If you are willing to call again, end with: “It’s great to hear your voice. I’ll give you a call again soon.”

Something as simple as a phone call can take just minutes; minutes so very well spent.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Kelvin Kevin

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. <a href="

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