Come visit me!
This is the blog of Robbie Miller Kaplan, author of "How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say." Please bookmark my site as a resource on helpful ways to comfort those facing tough times. Comments and questions are welcome!
Welcome to Comforting Words! We’ve all faced a situation that’s left us speechless. A friend shares a devastating medical diagnosis, you learn via email of a relative’s death, or an acquaintance with a long-standing marriage tells you she’s getting divorced. What do you say? We’ve all been at a loss for words when we've needed them most. My goal in creating this blog is to provide a forum to share stories, ideas, and resources that will help us communicate effectively when confronted with unexpected news of loss and difficult times. And most important, I’d like to give insight into the best ways to help others so they don’t feel isolated and unsupported when facing difficult times. I feel so passionately about the importance of providing support that I wrote a book on the topic: How to Say It When You Don’t Know What to Say: The Right Words for Difficult Times. It's now available in volumes on Illness & Death, Miscarriage, Suicide and e-books on Death of a Child, Death of Newborn or Stillborn Baby, Divorce, Pet Loss and Caregiver Responsiblities at http://wordsthatcomfort.com.
Labels: funeral customs
When someone faces a difficult loss, whose responsibility is it to communicate their needs? This question came up recently when a reader shared their complicated medical trauma that had them back and forth to another part of the country for treatment. Like many others, they chose to communicate with family and friends via a caring website where they posted journal entries. They requested no calls so without phone communication and direction, it was hard to figure out how to best help; most friends and family members resorted to cards and e-mail. They did notify their religious institution but no concrete help was offered. And while cards and e-mails are helpful, this family had some real needs that were not addressed.
So it got me thinking how you might handle this if you needed support and it wasn’t forthcoming. What if you let your religious institution know your circumstances and they offer no support. Do you call them and communicate some specific needs? And what about your friends? Do you call one trusted friend and give them a list of other friends and ask them to coordinate support?
I’ve heard amazing stories how neighbors and acquaintances pull together to help those in need. How community members solicit help from other members who don’t even know the family. How new bonds are created and networks formed when individuals seeking support are willing to communicate their needs and ask for help.
I know how difficult it is to ask for help when you are feeling so vulnerable. But when others truly don’t know what to do, it may be the time to step up and be specific about your needs. And if someone says they can’t help you, don’t be deterred. There are a lot of caring souls out there that may just need some direction. And we all know that it’s the supportive and caring gestures that bring comfort and facilitate the healing process.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is the author of 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." Three additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn and Newborn Baby" and "Pet Loss." Click here to order.
Suicide was back in the news this week after the tragic death of Marie Osmond’s eighteen-year old son. “Suicide survivors,” the bereaved whose loved one died by suicide, are often left to deal with guilt (could I have stopped it?); rejection (how could they choose death over me?); stigmatism by friends, loved ones, and society (their loved one chose death over life).
So what can you do when a friend or loved one experiences a death by suicide? You can provide nonjudgmental support to help your friend or loved one navigate what will be a complicated and prolonged bereavement.
1. Don’t stay away because you fear you’ll say the wrong thing. Instead, express your deepest condolences and share how sorry you are for the loss. If you knew the deceased, you can share what was so special about them and that you will miss them too.
2. Don’t think suicide should be treated any differently than any other death. Treat suicide survivors the same way you would treat anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
3. Don’t use words and phrases to describe suicide in negative connotations. Avoid saying “committed suicide;” using the word “committed” implies a crime.
4. Don’t use language that implies the person who died by suicide was to blame. It’s inappropriate to say “killed themselves,” “ended their life” or, “they took their life by their own choice.”
5. Don’t ask questions. You can offer to listen confidentially, and leave it up to the bereaved to let you know if and when they’d like to talk.