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 competent at coping nor does it make it easier. Grief isn’t like any other life event. It doesn’t matter how many times you go through it; each time is unique and each loss leaves a different void in your life.

That’s just one good reason to never say to the bereaved, “I know how you feel.” Because you can’t possibly know how someone feels; just because you lost a mother, a child, or a spouse, your loss was unique to you. None of us knows the personal history or relationship that’s part of the loss and grieving process.

Each of us grieves in our own time and in our own way. And if you are to heal, you must fully grieve. It’s hard to see someone in so much pain and I think that’s the reason many people shy away from the bereaved. But you can’t hurry someone through the mourning process. What you can do is be a friend. Stay the course, listen when they need to talk, and remain by their side. Isn’t that what you’ll want someone to 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 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.


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Comment by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 11, 2010 at 1:49pm
This is such a tragic situation. It’s also very personal and what you choose to do is really very much up to you. I’m not sure what you are considering to do, whether it’s to write a note or give a donation for a funeral. The family can certainly use support. From my experience, I find that whatever is in your heart should guide you in making a decision.
Comment by Gina Groth on March 11, 2010 at 9:08am
Recently March the 7th, a young man of 27 took his own life after shooting a friend,fleeing the police and then shooting himself in the head as the police had him pulled over...this young man attended high school with my own children and even back then I fought to keep my own children away from him since he was from a broken home...I even took him to church a couple of times but drugs seem to be what surrounded his life.. so distance was the only way I felt I could protect my own teens....years later he had a family and as a result two young sons.......I have for several days struggled with this overwhelming sadness especially for his little sons.....the legacy he left behind for them is this horrible ending to his troubled life...what even compounds this sadness is the family inability to pay for his funeral. He passed on the 7th...its been four days now and still no arrangements.what can I do to reach out to this family???

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