Robbie Miller Kaplan's Blog (218)

Words from long ago warm the heart

My daughter visited this week and when she arrived she had a twinkle in her eye. She extended her hand and there was a card I had never seen. “I found this while I was cleaning and it’s from Grandma,” she said.

I sat on the couch in front of the fire and opened the card. I’ve re-read notes and letters from my mom many times since her death, but this was a message I hadn’t read before. The note was written just four months before she died and as I began to read, I could…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 17, 2009 at 4:00pm — No Comments

When it comes to funerals, preparation is key

When it comes to doing the right thing, even I make mistakes. This week, I accompanied my daughter to a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. The funeral was a beautiful tribute to her friend’s dad and extremely memorable, in more ways than one.

The two of us did plan; what to wear, where to make a donation, and what time we should leave. Since we live in the Washington, DC metro area and rush hour traffic is terrible, my daughter suggested we leave at 7 AM and take the…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 12, 2009 at 7:30am — No Comments

Small investment pays big dividends

Months ago, I led a workshop on communications during difficult times. One participant shared that after a cousin’s spouse passed away, he and his wife had covered all the bases. They attended the funeral, sent a condolence note, and made a donation in memory of the deceased.

While acknowledging his thoughtfulness, I mentioned the importance of keeping in touch in the months following a death. A simple phone call to the bereaved can mean so much; just say hello and let…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 4, 2009 at 7:00am — No Comments

What to do when an acquaintance dies

When someone you hardly know has died, it can be shocking to experience strong emotions. This happened to me several years ago; I read the morning paper and realized that the 15-year-old who died in an automobile accident was the daughter of long ago friends. I had only met the daughter once, shortly after her birth, and yet I remember sobbing as I read her name.

We can’t possibly predict how we’ll feel when someone we know dies; and it’s even harder to imagine how a loss…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 24, 2009 at 7:00pm — No Comments

What not to say

Even those with the best intentions might say something inappropriate to the bereaved. Hurtful sentiments can damage relationships; so many individuals stay away, fearing they’ll say the wrong thing.

So what can you do? Stick to the basics when speaking with the bereaved. Communicate in some way your sadness at their loss and if you have some knowledge of the deceased, mention a quality you admired. For example: “I was so sad to hear of Jill’s death. Her wonderful nature…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 18, 2009 at 7:30am — 61 Comments

Stand by their side

It can be really awkward when someone you know is grieving a loss and you never met the deceased. Should you participate in the burial and mourning rituals at the funeral, cemetery, or home? Do you pay a personal call days or weeks following a death? Maybe you did know the deceased, but you’re afraid to say or do the wrong thing and contemplate staying away.

Many folks have questions on what’s appropriate etiquette following a death. I’ve come to the conclusion that just…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 10, 2009 at 2:00pm — No Comments

When to ask for help

It’s really tough to ask friends for help since it feels like we can’t handle our affairs. And yet we all face experiences that are so difficult, it is impossible to cope by ourselves. Some folks know the right things to do but others will look to you for guidance. Here are some things you might ask for when facing a tough time:

1. Ask to have a lunch or dinner order picked up at a favorite food outlet. I did this with a friend, leaving a lunch order over her voicemail,…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 30, 2009 at 6:30am — No Comments

Timing your condolence notes

When we learn there’s a death, we think it’s essential to respond immediately. Some folks rise to the occasion and quickly craft a heartfelt message. But if you need some time to do the job justice, take it. The bereaved get most attention in the early days and weeks, while they’re in shock and processing the loss, and most likely won’t remember much. It’s in the weeks and months ahead, when mourning takes place, that they might most appreciate a note from you. Here are five…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 23, 2009 at 7:30am — No Comments

Simple things make a difference

When someone is going through a difficult time, communications and actions need not be elaborate to make a difference. Choose one or more of these five simple steps to offer your support:

  1. Send a note to share your sadness, feelings, or memories and let the recipient know they are in your thoughts and prayers.
  2. Bring a meal, food item, or gift card for a favorite carry-out restaurant.
  3. Make contact before…

Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 15, 2009 at 10:00am — No Comments

Six more distractions that hamper listening

When someone trusts you enough to share their thoughts and feelings, they're asking for just one thing – they'd like you to listen. They're not looking to you for answers and they don't want you to judge. They just want to voice their experience.

It's not easy to be a listener; it takes lots of energy and hard work to actively listen. You'll listen more effectively if you avoid these six additional distractions:

  1. Don't…

Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 12, 2009 at 1:30pm — 1 Comment

When loss hits the workplace

It’s one thing to support a family member or friend dealing with loss but harder to know what to say and do with relationships that lack intimacy. It may seem safe to do nothing when you’re uncertain how best to proceed but it’s the small kindnesses that mean a lot and go a long way in providing comfort. Here are some suggestions from real-life queries:

Q: How can you support a colleague that has experienced a painful loss? My supervisor is really an acquaintance and…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 8, 2009 at 2:30pm — No Comments

Six distractions that hamper listening

Despite your best intentions, it can be hard to listen intently to someone dealing with pain and loss. Our personal communication experience is one of interactive dialogue but if you are to truly help someone processing a loss, the dialogue should be one way.

Distractions are barriers to effective listening. Here are six you can easily avoid:

  1. Don't multi-task such as folding laundry, sorting mail, or unloading the dishwasher. Even if you're on the…

Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 5, 2009 at 7:00am — 1 Comment

Seven ways to listen better

Someone facing a difficult experience needs an outlet to voice their concerns and fears. It is through conversations, sharing our stories over and over again, that we finally make sense of what is happening in our lives. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone facing a tough time is a willingness to listen. And yet listening doesn't come easy to us. Listening is a skill, just like speaking and writing, and the more you practice, the more proficient you become. Here are seven…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 29, 2008 at 5:30pm — No Comments

Grieving loss during the holidays

Holidays should be joyful, but they are often sad for individuals grieving a loss or going through a difficult experience. Five simple things can bring cheer to those facing tough times:

  1. Write a personal note to let them know you are thinking of them and their loved one.
  2. Invite them out to lunch and offer to provide transportation.
  3. Deliver a gift bag or tin with home-baked or store-bought cookies, muffins or a quick bread.
  4. Include them in…

Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 18, 2008 at 4:30pm — No Comments

What to say to a grieving spouse

A colleague, Joan Price, recently lost her beloved husband, Robert. Many folks she encountered found it hard to say the right thing and too often she was asked, “How are you doing?" Joan wondered, “What was I supposed to answer? The truth was ‘Horrible, of course!’ but I restrained myself."

I asked Joan to share what she wished folks had said so we could learn how to better communicate with a grieving spouse. Joan reminded me that we each grieve differently and statements…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 2, 2008 at 4:30pm — 12 Comments

The gift of listening

It happens all the time. Something has us stressed, upset, or worried and we search for comfort. But what we really need is someone to listen; someone to give us their full attention as we share our fears and concerns. We’re not looking for advice, we’re looking for understanding. And we each have the power to give this all important gift – our time and attention.

It’s hard to ask for support but we can’t expect our friends and loved ones to be mind readers and intuitively…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 25, 2008 at 4:30pm — No Comments

Making amends for something you said

What happens when someone you care about is grieving a loss and you know you said the wrong thing? That’s what happened to a friend of mine. She attended a family dinner and said something to her sister-in-law that she immediately knew was inappropriate. She didn’t know what to do, so she said nothing and her sister-in-law never mentioned it either. And even though the relationship seems fine, my friend feels guilty and wonders if there is something she can say a year later to make…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 18, 2008 at 2:00pm — No Comments

Welcome to Comforting Words!

Welcome to Comforting Words! We’ve all faced a situation that’s left us speechless. A friend shares a devastating medical diagnosis, or you learn via e-mail of a relative’s death. What do you say? We’ve all been at a loss for words when we've needed them most. My goal in creating this blog is to provide a forum to share stories, ideas, and resources that will help us feel confident when confronted with unexpected news of loss and difficult times. And most important, I’d like to…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 18, 2008 at 12:00pm — No Comments

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