Comforting Words - When You Don't Know What To Say

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!

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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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Being supportive after job loss

Along with the grim economic news is the recent data issued by the government on the October unemployment rate – 6.5 % - the highest level in 25 years.
With massive job cuts – 1.2 million jobs lost this year and still counting – it’s hard not to know someone who has lost their job or fears they will. Job loss is a huge blow to one’s ego - no matter how experienced, talented, or skilled, almost everyone’s identity is tied to their occupation or organization. And when that goes, so does your confidence.

How can you help? For starters, accept that they will go through many of the stages of grief in dealing with this loss. They may be angry, bitter, demonstrate denial or feel sad, anxious, or lonely. What you say and do impacts their psyche, so think carefully before you speak. Avoid expressing pity, don’t say anything that will shake their confidence, and most of all, don’t avoid them.

So what can you do to help? Recognize their loss and communicate that you are really sorry this has happened. Bolster their ego by reinforcing their strengths and accomplishments. But avoid unrealistic assurances, such as “You’ll find a job in no time.” In this economic climate, it might take awhile. Instead, suggest they “Take the time to find the right job.” If it’s appropriate, make an offer to provide contacts through your network, give feedback on their resume or cover letter, or distribute their resume. The best support may be a weekly date at the local coffee spot to review their progress, brainstorm options, or just listen. Even if you’re worried about what to say it’s essential you take their calls, return their messages, and include them in social occasions when appropriate. Your care and support will go a long way in helping them through this cycle.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said -- very good advice indeed!! Thanks Robbie!

November 17, 2008 at 9:45 AM  

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