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 that she liked might not work as well with others. But these are her heartfelt suggestions:

1. “Tell me about him.”
With people who didn’t know him or barely knew him, this is a wonderful opening for me to talk about him.

2. “I miss him, too.”
From people who did know him, this is the perfect thing to say.

3. “Here’s what I loved about him” or “Here’s something special he did that I’ll always remember.”
How beautiful to add to my memories of him during this time.

Thanks, Joan!


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 StoreClick here to order.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons / It's JoJo

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Comment by M Walden on July 1, 2009 at 10:23pm
My Husband has been gone 5 months. Married almost 38 yrs. He had a Brain Tumor.He fought bravely for 22 months.I miss him so much.At 56 I will never love again..that is ok, but the ' oneness ' is hard.2 cups,2 rockers, twoness is gone,I am blessed and grateful for what we had.I miss his eyes,he was mine and I his for our whole adult life.The void is hard.But yet I am Blessed.I am trying to return to the workforce and I pray...hard..I look at the moon and ask God to give me strength I don't have.Moving forward without him is unbearable.But I am trying to be strong.He left Jan.24th 2009 Then his dog left on Easter to be with him. I couldn't wash our sheets for six weeks.Yet, I had more since 1971 than some ever had and I am thankful. When I see him again it will be for Eternity and never another separation. I think of each one of you and pray for your healing also. Thank you for the opportunity to speak of my Darling.
Comment by Steve Cain on June 26, 2009 at 11:29pm
Many of my friends since my wife's passing on Sunday have said to me, "I don't know what to say". Well guess what? That's OK, because there are times when I don't know what to say, and I'm the one going through this. Sometimes, just an embrace and tears speak more loudly and better than any words a person can come up with.
Comment by sue on March 23, 2009 at 7:38pm
The one, "I miss him too" really helps me. "here's what I loved about him", that is wonderful. I also love it when people that we both knew and loved allow me to remember something about him. Just a smile as they too reflect. Having friends in common still really helps.
I miss so much about him and I need to have that memory and not feel bad for expressing it.
Please don't tell me "it will get better". In my heart I know this but you don't know it if you haven't experienced it. Please don't try to tell me you know how I feel, because you don't. Each one is different and each one grieves differently. The biggest problem for me has been other widows. Shock is different than long time illness. Not worse, just different. Sp

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