Robbie Miller Kaplan's Blog (218)

Memorable condolence notes

People express concern in finding the right words to write a truly appropriate condolence note. But it's not your mastery with words that's important; what are truly special are messages that come directly from your heart.

When someone dies, the bereaved are left with their memories. You can add to those memories by sharing your personal thoughts, anecdotes, shared experiences, and remembrances of the deceased. In doing so, you are giving the bereaved a priceless…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 13, 2010 at 2:00pm — No Comments

Keeping in touch with those dealing with loss

Not too long ago, there was a death in my family. One family member shared that she had taken care of things; she’d sent a sympathy note and made a donation in the loved one’s memory. She’s correct; she did just what she was supposed to do. But what happens in the days and months after the cards and donations cease?

A friend dealing with a loss shared that one thing she noticed was how quickly other people move on. When you’ve had a significant loss and while you’re grieving and…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 27, 2010 at 2:30pm — No Comments

After the death of both your mom and dad

In the scheme of things, we expect to outlive our parents. It is in the natural order that we anticipate that our parents will die before us. And yet it seems that nothing prepares us for the loss – the void we feel following their deaths.

When my last parent died, I felt I had lost my buffer. Without my mom, there was no longer a layer that protected me. When she was alive, no matter what happened or what curve life threw my way, I had someone older and wiser to lean on and learn…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 6, 2010 at 2:30pm — 2 Comments

When memorial donations are not acknowledged

Memorial donations are a way to honor the memory of the deceased. Sometimes, the family of the deceased chooses the organizations and they’re noted in the obituary or funeral announcement. Individuals also choose organizations themselves; most often ones they think might be meaningful to the bereaved family.

Memorial donations are usually acknowledged. Sometimes with a note and short message of appreciation; other times, the bereaved might use the note as a cathartic expression,…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 29, 2010 at 1:30pm — No Comments

How to write thank you notes after a death

A recently bereaved sister was in a dilemma. Her brother’s friends and colleagues sent cards, flowers and gifts after his death and she wanted to acknowledge the caring gestures. But she knew few of the individuals and puzzled over how to proceed.

It is very thoughtful to thank individuals for their kindness following a loss. Notes are very personal and what you say depends on how you feel about writing the notes. Some individuals create a template and use the same format for all…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 24, 2010 at 9:00am — No Comments

What to do during difficult times

A friend called, her voice filled with despair. Her dad’s cancer had returned and he was back in the hospital. I automatically responded, “What can I do to help?” She asked if I would keep her mom company at the hospital on Saturday morning so she could run her errands. I agreed and was glad I had the opportunity to visit her dad, as he died ten days later.

But the visit itself took a toll; my mom had died the year before and I found the hospital a stark reminder of what I’d lost.…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 15, 2010 at 10:30am — No Comments

When a baby dies

At a recent meeting, a business associate shared some dreadful news; a mutual acquaintance gave birth a few months ago and the baby died at seven weeks.

There is something profoundly tragic when a baby dies. The news is as shocking as it is rare; out of over 4 million births in the United States in 2006, 28,500 babies died before they were a year old.

You may have experience dealing with the death of adults and maybe children. But infant death is different and because of…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 18, 2010 at 9:00am — No Comments

What not to wear to a funeral

We live in a world where anything goes. And yet I’m still surprised at some of the things people wear; jeans and sweatshirts to church, shorts at a fine restaurant on a Saturday night, and flip flops for all occasions. But when it comes to funerals, most of us sense that there are some rules of protocol that should be followed.

A friend recently shared that she attended a funeral and was surprised that a teenage family member wore casual clothing and flip flops. I was…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 5, 2010 at 12:00pm — 15 Comments

When memories are all we have

My friend’s dad died several years ago but she thinks of him often; his golf hat and golf clubs are a constant reminder. She stores them where they’re visible and she smiles when she sees them. A cousin wore his dad’s coat the first winter following his father’s death and a friend found great comfort using her mom’s handbag while she grieved her death.

These stories made me think of my grandma. She was constantly in the kitchen and she always wore an apron. I wear an apron…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 14, 2010 at 2:00pm — 4 Comments

What not to say after a suicide

Suicide was back in the news this week after the tragic death of Marie Osmond’s eighteen-year old son. “Suicide survivors,” the bereaved whose loved one died by suicide, are often left to deal with guilt (could I have stopped it?); rejection (how could they choose death over me?); stigmatism by friends, loved ones, and society (their loved one chose death over life).

So what can you do when a friend or loved one experiences a death by suicide? You can provide nonjudgmental support…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 2, 2010 at 11:30am — 13 Comments

Cooking up some comfort

We had a lot of snow last week, three feet deep. With no place to go, it seemed an opportune time to try my hand at something I’d wanted to do for the last nine years; attempt to make my mom’s stuffed cabbage recipe.

My mom called herself a short order cook and one of her favorite ways to comfort was something homemade from her kitchen. I was a lucky recipient and every time we visited, she prepared three of my favorite recipes. Why would I bother to cook them myself when she was so…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 16, 2010 at 10:30am — 1 Comment

How to honor a friend

It’s been almost five years since my friend Betsy died. She left a big void in my life as we had one of those rare friendships where we were truly like family.

Betsy had a form of cancer that did not respond to post surgical treatment so I learned not to take our friendship for granted. For several years, I worried about Betsy and always asked how she was doing. Finally, she told me she had stopped worrying about the cancer; she considered it a period where she was sick and now she…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 9, 2010 at 12:30pm — No Comments

Being supportive from afar

Do you wonder, “How can I be supportive when I live far away?” Or, have you concluded it is too difficult to support someone from a distance and think, “I wish I lived closer so I can be supportive.”

There’s much you can do to show support from afar, and you can still make a difference in helping loved ones deal with loss. What you choose to do depends on your willingness to be involved and the needs or desires of your loved one.

Here are some ideas of what’s worked for…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 26, 2010 at 3:00pm — No Comments

You can't hurry grief

I thought I knew everything there was to know about grief. After all, I’d faced some terrible losses by my early thirties. And yet my mom’s death really shook me. The grief and sense of loss was devastating and I found it incredibly hard to pull myself together that first year.

From my experience, I’ve learned that every loss is different and one loss doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the next. Unlike other life experiences, the more practice you have doesn’t make you any more…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 19, 2010 at 8:30am — 2 Comments

Should you respond to inappropriate comments?

You would think that medical professionals, of all people, would be sensitive when dealing with loss. And while I know that many aren’t comfortable with the topic, I’m still astonished at some of the callous and insensitive things that have been said to patients.

A reader recently shared that her husband took his life. When she told her doctor, he asked, “How did he do it?” When she told him he used helium gas, the doctor said, “Well at least he didn't leave you a mess to…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 13, 2010 at 6:30am — 12 Comments

Making a difference in times of loss

We’re often shocked and hurt by the insensitive and inappropriate things people say and do. But lots of people get it right and seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to supporting and comforting the bereaved. I’m going to start the New Year off on a positive note and share some of the real-life kindnesses you’ve reported to me:

• “In the year since my husband died, my daughter gives me a surprise every month on the anniversary of his death. It might be a candy bar on my…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 4, 2010 at 8:00am — No Comments

No holiday from grief

The holidays are upon us and while many of us revel in the joy family traditions bring, for those grieving a loss, the holidays can hold little joy.

So what should we do for those we care about mourning a loss? Do we send cards? Buy gifts? Try to cheer them up?

For starters, it’s important to understand that grief is very individual and runs its own course. It’s not something anyone can control and the bereaved need to mourn their loss at their own pace and in their own…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 9, 2009 at 9:30am — 2 Comments

How late is too late for condolence notes?

A reader wonders, “Is it too late to send a condolence note six months after a death?” I’m not aware of a statute of limitations when it comes to condolence notes, but how late is too late? Is it appropriate to send a note six months or even one year after a death?

Your first consideration should be the bereaved. How might they feel when they receive your belated note? Will they be comforted that someone remembers them and their loved one? Will they feel better knowing…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 1, 2009 at 10:00am — 4 Comments

Jewish rituals of mourning

When a death occurs in the Jewish faith, there are very specific rituals concerning burial and mourning that provide comfort to the bereaved as well as a framework for what to say and do.

It is custom for burials to take place as soon as possible, usually within twenty-four hours, but no longer than two days following the death. An exception is made only if immediate family must travel long distances. All aspects of the funeral are as simple as possible. There is no wake or viewing…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 23, 2009 at 10:00am — No Comments

Making contact with the bereaved

While in my twenties, a close friend’s mom died. My friend shared the time and place of the visitation and yet I chose not to attend. I had good excuses; I was living in a large city and was unfamiliar with the part of town where the visitation was held. Also, my faith does not hold visitations and I had no idea what to expect. I chose to write a condolence note and I stayed away. The day after the visitation, before my note arrived, my friend called. During our conversation, she told me…


Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 5, 2009 at 6:00am — No Comments

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