A member of my community died last week. The death was sudden and unexpected and the bereaved were overwhelmed. There were so many people who attended the reception after the funeral that they couldn’t fit into the home. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those people will be around to comfort the bereaved when real mourning occurs in the weeks and months ahead.
We’re often touched when difficult things happen to people we care about. That’s why we attend funerals and memorial services, participate in receptions and shivas, send condolence notes and sympathy cards, and make donations. We feel good knowing we’ve honored the deceased and reached out to the bereaved. And it’s true; these are all the things we should do following a death. But the bereaved are in shock in the days and early weeks after a death; it’s nature’s way of protecting us from the overwhelming emotions and sadness following a terrible loss.
And that’s why it’s okay to wait. Okay to take your time in crafting a sincere and meaningful condolence note weeks following a death and okay to research an appropriate way to make a donation to honor the deceased’s memory. A call and a visit weeks and months following an illness or death can be more meaningful as the sick or bereaved are often alone and your thoughtful gesture will bring needed solace.
When someone I know is going through a tough time, I also find it difficult to wait. But I recently learned an important lesson. I didn’t take the time to clearly think how I might best support a loved one after an accident, sending things quickly while the family was too overwhelmed to enjoy or use them. I learned that it’s okay to take your time, days or weeks, to respond rather than react, thinking through what might be the most effective way to lend your support, whether it’s local or out of town.
My experience was a good reminder that most help and support comes immediately following an illness or death and your kindness will be more meaningful when there’s time to appreciate it.
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 Store. Click here to order.
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