When bad things happen, it can be hard to know what to say or do. So it’s not unusual that many of us struggle over what we’ll say and how we’ll say it. We might spend a great deal of time crafting written messages when communicating with those facing loss, carefully choosing the words to use and the method of delivery. Or we might compose verbal messages, hoping they will convey our heartfelt sympathy.
So what happens when you write appropriate messages or verbally share what you feel is a supportive and caring conversation only to have the recipient not respond? Do you assume that they feel as if you took no care at all or even worse, that you somehow did not understand their pain or loss?
As a rule of thumb, if the bereaved doesn’t respond, don’t take it personally. You can control what you say and what you do but you have no control over how it is received or how it is processed. Individuals dealing with grief and loss do so in their own time and in their own way. They might not have the energy or the ability to respond just now. And that’s the way it should be. It’s important to understand that everyone’s grief is unique to them, taking into account their personal history and their life experience.
It might help to bear in mind why you reached out in the first place. Your true motives are known only to you but chances are, you were touched by the loss and wanted to extend some comfort. Your communication, either delivered in writing or conversation, did just that. And you should feel good knowing you acted on your good intentions.
So what can you do if you have reached out in what you feel is an appropriate way and it generates no response? If the relationship matters, continue to reach out. If you are a caring soul and you understand the pain in mourning a loss, continue to communicate and extend yourself by way of notes or calls. If calls feel burdensome, switch to email which is less intrusive. But stay the course. You’ll be glad you did.
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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