When expressing sympathy, isn’t thoughtful enough?
When someone dies, we express our sympathy by writing notes to the bereaved, hoping to provide some comfort. Many of us feel that if we write memorable notes, we’ll somehow make a difference. But all that pressure causes us to struggle, trying to find just the right words for a meaningful message.
If your goal is to write a memorable sympathy note, maybe you’re trying too hard. Think about what…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 26, 2012 at 7:30am — 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
Someone, at some point, will say something inappropriate and potentially hurtful when you’re dealing with illness or death. There’s no getting around it; it happens. Maybe we should just face the reality that it’s part of the process.
I’ve learned through my own experience that most people truly do not mean to hurt us; they just don’t know what to say and through either their discomfort or lack of experience with loss, they say something totally…Continue
Many of us, following a death, have signed guest books online, at Legacy.com perhaps or on a newspaper or funeral home website. And many have also sent handwritten condolence notes or cards. Is it better to share condolences in the online guest book for the deceased, or should you mail a handwritten letter? Should you do both? Condolence expert Robbie Kaplan offers advice. In the end, it may be the message more than the method…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 15, 2011 at 10:00am — No Comments
It’s hard to write condolence letters. After all, you’re dealing with death and most of us want to avoid the topic. Death makes us feel vulnerable and sad and in that state of mind, we face the formidable task of reaching out to someone who feels much worse than we do.
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 31, 2011 at 9:00am — No Comments
A friend’s mother dies or a colleague’s daughter is killed in a car accident. You’re touched by the loss, but you’ve never met the deceased. We all know it’s important to reach out to the bereaved and extend comfort, but how do you write a condolence letter for someone you don’t know?
When someone dies, all the bereaved have left are their memories. Sympathy notes that express your condolences bring needed comfort to the bereaved. The most…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 21, 2010 at 10:00am — No Comments
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
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
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
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…
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 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…
What is it about a miscarriage that makes it so difficult to say the right thing? Women who miscarry report that they’re frequently the target of callous and hurtful comments that dismiss or trivialize their loss. While the list of offenders includes friends, colleagues, and medical professionals, the worst culprits might surprise you; often family members, especially their own moms, mothers-in-law, sisters, and sisters-in-law.
Here’s a list of what you should NEVER say after a…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 13, 2009 at 7:30am — 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…
It’s a challenge to craft a meaningful condolence note in the best of circumstances. But how do you acknowledge a death when the relationship was difficult or even estranged?
The depth of one’s grief doesn’t necessarily equate to the quality of the relationship, so just because someone had a difficult relationship doesn’t mean they’re not hurting. It’s even possible that they’re hurting more because the opportunity for reconciliation has passed. And they’ll grieve that loss along…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 28, 2009 at 7:00pm — No Comments