It’s so important to reach out to the bereaved in the weeks and months following a death. Loss is painful and the bereaved can feel isolated and lonely while mourning their loved one. Connecting to someone who is so very sad can be complicated and some forms of communication work better than others. What I’ve learned might surprise you.

  1. While email is often considered an impersonal and passive means of communication, it can be one of the most effective ways to reach out to the bereaved. You do not need to worry about timing your message or disturbing them and they can read your message any time they would like. You are not putting them on the spot as far as a response; they can reply to your message or not, and they can do so whenever they feel like it. It is a convenient way to show someone that you care and you can keep in touch anywhere you happen to be and as often as you would like.
  2. Cards and notes take more effort on your part but, they are always welcome and a tonic for the bereaved. It need not be elaborate; something as simple as “Sending some sunshine to you today” or “Just to let you know you are in my thoughts.” One bereaved friend shared that she was having a sad and frustrating day when she received a “thinking of you” card in the mail. It meant so much to her to know that someone was really thinking of her and it made her feel less alone.
  3. While oral communications are an integral facet of the mourning process, timing them can be awkward. You might call at an inappropriate time and the reception you receive may turn you off. It is helpful to ask after your initial greeting, “Is this a good time to talk?” If not, be flexible and try another time. Or, it may be beneficial to send an email first and ask, “When is a good time for me to call?”
  4. Nothing beats companionship while mourning a loss. Visits can be arranged by email or phone. Choose a time and place that is comfortable for the bereaved and allow them to guide the conversation. You take a supporting role, one of listener.   

Communicating with the bereaved requires persistence and patience on your part. But isn’t that what you would hope someone would do for you?

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.

Photo credit: 20130429-060-of-365 via photopin (license)

Photo credit: 20130429-060-of-365 via photopin (license)

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