My friend had a beautiful old watch that belonged to her dad, and she wanted to get it back in working order. She took it to a repairman, and while examining the watch, he told my friend he could tell a lot about her dad by the way the watch was worn. He mentioned her dad probably liked to fiddle with the dial and showed her the worn-down areas. He then demonstrated how her dad most likely kept his hand in his pocket based on the wear on the watch’s side.…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 26, 2013 at 12:00pm — No Comments
When my mother began a phone conversation with “I have some sad news,” I knew what would follow. She would share news that a friend or loved one had died. Not that long ago, it was common to hear about a death in person or by phone. A letter or note was another way to notify us that someone we knew had passed…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 12, 2013 at 1:30pm — No Comments
When someone dies we are motivated to do something to both remember the deceased and to communicate our support to the bereaved. One of the most natural things to do following a death is to make a donation in memory of the deceased.
A donation, more lasting than a bouquet of flowers or a fruit basket, provides a tangible reminder to the bereaved that their loved one mattered. A contribution in a loved one’s…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 21, 2013 at 8:30am — No Comments
Loss is hard enough, but it’s even tougher when your relationships don’t hold up. Maybe your friends or loved ones lack the time or energy for your needs or they can’t cope with the sadness or anger that follows loss. Or, they may not know how to help or have too many problems of their own. For…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 8, 2013 at 9:30am — No Comments
Nothing makes you more tongue-tied than learning a friend, loved one, colleague, or neighbor is sick, in treatment, or bereaved. What can you say? And what do you do if you fear you’ve said something inappropriate? That’s what happened to a friend. She was worried she’d said the wrong thing to a sick friend and asked ”What can I do to make this right?” At first glance it doesn’t seem like a difficult question; just apologize. But there’s nothing simple about relationships and…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 24, 2013 at 8:30am — No Comments
It’s something I’ll never forget. I was an adult student who recently returned to classes after the death of my newborn son. I was walking across campus and saw a classmate; he saw me too and before we could greet each other, he altered his path and avoided me. Decades later, I understand why he did it, but even so, the memory still stings.
Loss is very isolating and when you avoid someone experiencing loss, you isolate them even further. I’ve learned that most…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 4, 2013 at 10:30am — No Comments
How to write a sympathy note is a popular topic. As one friend explains, it’s very difficult figuring out what to say to someone dealing with such sorrow. The bereaved do appreciate the caring sentiment these notes convey and they play an essential role in communicating our condolences. While I agree that it’s important to craft a sympathy message that’s comforting, it feels as if there is too much emphasis placed on a written sympathy note rather than the personal extension of…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 19, 2013 at 11:00am — No Comments
It can be hard to know what to say to someone who’s experienced loss. That’s why it’s no surprise that friends, neighbors, colleagues, and community members often avoid the ill and bereaved for fear they’ll say the wrong thing.
Individuals facing loss need to feel they’re not alone and that’s why it is so important to make personal contact. I’d like to say it doesn’t matter what you say, but it does. If you say the wrong thing and offend those ill or bereaved, the…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on August 12, 2013 at 11:30am — No Comments
A friend faced a difficult cancer diagnosis and refused all phone calls and personal contact. Other than cards, it was impossible to reach her. I thought a lot about what I might do to help her and then remembered how much she loved the personalized cookbook I made my daughter. While looking through it she mentioned that she wished someone had made one for her. I decided I’d make her a cookbook and combed through my recipes, selecting ones I thought…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 22, 2013 at 10:00am — No Comments
News travels fast through social media so it’s no surprise to hear about a death through Facebook. Blasts of news are so frequent that we’ve become adept in responding in similar fashion. Why send a sympathy note when with a few clicks of the keys, you’ve said your peace? With seemingly ease, people react immediately to sad news.
While I’m not a fan of posting condolence messages on Facebook, I’ve become aware of just how comforting the immediacy of support can…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on July 11, 2013 at 3:00pm — No Comments
While I’m a firm believer in the silver lining theory, I don’t think it should apply to someone else’s loss. When our loved one has an accident, disabling illness, cancer, or some other difficult diagnosis, there really is nothing good in it. It’s true that we are glad our loved one is alive but that’s no consolation to us right now if they can’t walk, talk, function, or have to go through debilitating surgery and treatments. And if our loved one has died, we’re left with a gaping…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 26, 2013 at 8:00am — No Comments
There were many blog posts and essays in the last few weeks on what it’s like to spend Mother’s Day and Father’s Day without either of your parents. Some were poignant, some were sad, and others expressed remorse. The writers shared their pain over relationships they’ll miss and ones that can no longer be mended.…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 18, 2013 at 11:00am — No Comments
An acquaintance had an aggressive form of cancer. I was kept in the loop via text messages and Facebook and so it seemed natural to learn of her death through a text. A friend of the bereaved sent a mass text, not one but a series, with funeral notifications, meal requests, and donation preferences. Friends of the bereaved began writing condolence messages on her Facebook wall.
My first thought upon hearing of the death was to send a condolence note; but I changed my…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 23, 2013 at 12:00pm — No Comments
Many of us will spend Mother’s Day remembering mom. How you remember her depends on your perspective and how you shape your memories. Do you feel your glass is half empty or half full? While there are facets of our lives for which we lack control, we do have the ability to choose how we view our past and it’s up to us whether we make peace with it.
My glass is half full and so are my memories. I find the older I get, the more I focus on the positive. I not only…Continue
Technology has changed the way we communicate. It’s now more common to keep in touch by text than e-mail, while phone calls and handwritten notes seem outmoded or obsolete. But when it comes to a death, are these newer forms of communication appropriate, or should we rely on the old fashioned forms of communication? Here are some thoughts:
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 22, 2013 at 12:30pm — No Comments
About 10 to 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Some suggest it is even higher as some miscarriages occur before the mom even knows she’s pregnant. Despite this high frequency, bereaved parents share that far too many friends and loved ones fail to say appropriate things and some, not knowing what to say or worse, minimizing the loss, just stay away. But it’s important to remember that a miscarriage is…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 10, 2013 at 10:00am — No Comments
Last week my friend supported a dear friend whose father died. The dad had Alzheimer’s disease and had been failing for some time. But his condition had quickly worsened and he died unexpectedly.
My friend attended the funeral and funeral reception and since the family is Jewish, she helped organize and attended the Shiva. She was quite surprised by some of the behavior and questions that hurt both her…Continue
When I worked in education our office had a “Sunshine Committee.” All the money collected from coffee sales went into a sunshine fund. Any staff member sick, hospitalized, in treatment, or bereaved received a floral arrangement from the Sunshine Committee and the committee members sent cards too. The thoughtfulness from the Sunshine Committee permeated…Continue
When my children were young we visited my mom on Valentine’s Day. My mom lived in a retirement community and I knew many of her neighbors probably wouldn’t be celebrating Valentine’s Day so I thought we’d do something thoughtful. I had my daughters help bake and decorate valentine cookies and we packed them with ribbons. While visiting my mom, the girls walked…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 13, 2013 at 9:30am — No Comments
A message with the subject line “sad news” was in my email inbox this morning. I get these messages from my congregation all the time and it’s helpful to know that a member has experienced a loss so I can express condolences when I see them. But I’m always perplexed when friends, colleagues, and even family…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 1, 2013 at 11:00am — No Comments