I learned to be comfortable with the bereaved because at a young age, I was the bereaved. I witnessed firsthand how young friends, their parents, my neighbors, teachers, school officials, relatives, and family friends treated me and interacted with me upon learning that my father died.
And yet it was my mom who taught me how to comfort the bereaved. She connected by phone, cooked a meal, visited the bereaved, and continued to help long past when others ceased to…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 8, 2012 at 2:00pm — No Comments
Many parents wonder if it’s appropriate for children to write sympathy notes. Should parents expose their children to death? And if so, at what age are children old enough to understand the complex feelings of sorrow and grief when a loved one dies?
These are tough questions to answer. From my perspective, it is never too early to learn compassion. Since so many adults struggle to write sympathy notes, wouldn’t it be beneficial to teach our children how to write…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 22, 2012 at 2:30pm — No Comments
Words might be the best way to express condolences following a death and it’s the words that stay with us the longest. Unfortunately, it’s the negative words that the bereaved seem to remember, so think carefully before you speak.
One bereaved mom told me that she still remembers what a friend said, even though her baby died thirteen years ago. “She told me my baby was in a better place. How could she be in a better place when she should be here with me?”…Continue
One of the kindest things you can do for someone who’s lost a loved one is to help keep their memory alive through stories. I was reminded of this recently when a friend’s daughter wrote to me asking for my support in a philanthropic endeavor to honor her mother’s memory. She added, “I would also like to extend an invitation to those of you who knew my mom personally to send me a short story about my mom. It always makes me smile to know people are remembering her.”
So how do…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 17, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments
My caregiver experience was short. My 86-year-old mother was not recovering from surgery and began to fail. Despite competing pulls, an ailing parent, a job, and a teen preparing for senior prom, I rushed to my mother’s side and helped her stabilize. Ultimately, I felt quite fortunate to have had that special, loving time with her as my mom died just seven months later.
A friend became a caregiver to her mom after she was diagnosed with dementia. Her mother lives in an…Continue
Grief is a very painful and personal experience. When I recently asked bereaved adults to share their thoughts on what helped and what hurt following the death of their loved ones, I got different viewpoints. It’s apparent that we each grieve in our own way and in our own time. And yet there were a number of things that most of the bereaved agreed on; certain questions upset them and there are other questions they wish you’d ask.
So what question did the bereaved find most…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 15, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments
You may already know how difficult it is for a grieving spouse to go to the cemetery after the funeral. But did you know that they might want your company? I didn’t. This was one of the things that surprised me when I recently spoke with bereaved spouses. Here are some other things bereaved spouses want you to know:
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 20, 2011 at 9:30am — No Comments
Overwhelmed with stress after her mother’s death, a reader wondered if it was okay to email her friends to let them know her mother died. A caring friend felt it was fine and offered to do the emailing. This helpful gesture relieved the bereaved daughter of a tough task.
Anyone who has had to cope with a loved one’s illness or death is well aware of the added stress in keeping family members and friends informed. The flashing message light on the answering machine becomes…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 12, 2011 at 3:30pm — No Comments
With tornadoes and floods dominating the news, it’s easy to feel helpless in the wake of such personal tragedy. In this technology-driven world, we’re witnessing breaking news, reading, seeing and hearing first-hand how these disasters personally impact individuals and communities. Who can forget the faces of those interviewed after losing their loved ones, homes, schools and places of employment?
We’ve seen acts of courage, heroism and extensions of human kindness, but with…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 3, 2011 at 11:30am — No Comments
We know how to respond to a death in a friend’s family, but what happens when the death is in the family of your child’s friend? Is it appropriate to involve children when supporting the bereaved family? That’s what one mom wondered. Her daughter’s best friend’s granddad died. The mom planned on writing a condolence letter to the family and asked, “Should my daughter write one too?”
At what age is it appropriate to involve our children in the bereavement process? I’m not sure…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 22, 2011 at 11:30am — No Comments
Upon hearing difficult news, we instinctively want to comfort. It’s a logical response since the word comfort means a relief from sorrow and pain. Our family experience and cultural heritage shape the ways in which we comfort. Often the women in our families, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, used some form of food for consolation.
It seems only natural that when we look to extend comfort, we most often think in terms of food. And the foods we choose…Continue
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
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
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
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
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
A young woman who was eight months pregnant gave birth to a stillborn baby. Overcome with grief, she called her supervisor at work and requested he notify her colleagues by e-mail so she wouldn’t have to individually tell her devastating news. It seemed a simple request, but when she returned to work, she learned her supervisor did not notify her colleagues and they were each stunned when she painfully shared the news. Not knowing what to say or do, they avoided her and she felt shunned and…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 26, 2009 at 6:30pm — No Comments
The words sympathy and empathy are often thought to be the same, and yet they are distinct expressions.
In times of death, we often extend sympathy by sharing our sorrow for what’s happened. Sympathy cards are usually synonymous with condolence messages. When offering sympathy, we’re expressing concern for another’s feelings. Cards, notes, phone calls, e-mails, meals, and offers of assistance are all expressions of sympathy.
But you don’t offer empathy, you feel it. Empathy…
I saw Billy Crystal in his one-man show “700 Sundays” and was deeply touched by his personal story. He relates how his father’s untimely death at age 54, when Crystal was 15, set him apart from his peers and forever changed him. He tells of looking in the mirror shortly after his father’s death and seeing a man instead of a 15-year old.
Crystal’s story resonated with me because I share the same legacy; I was 11-years old when I too lost my 54-year old father. When Crystal relates…
When you’ve lost a loved one, the world as you knew it has changed forever. You lose your bearings, relationships change, and routines shift. Nothing feels right and the unfamiliarity is an uncomfortable reminder that life won’t ever be the same.
Most of us cherish the regularity of our lives and it’s our daily routines that give structure to our days. One of the most helpful things you can do for someone grieving a loss is to help them re-establish routines.
1. Offer to…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 19, 2009 at 2:30pm — No Comments