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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When memories are all we have

My friend’s dad died several years ago but she thinks of him often; his golf hat and golf clubs are a constant reminder. She stores them where they’re visible and she smiles when she sees them. A cousin wore his dad’s coat the first winter following his father’s death and a friend found great comfort using her mom’s handbag while she grieved her death.

These stories made me think of my grandma. She was constantly in the kitchen and she always wore an apron. I wear an apron too and every time my hands reach behind me to tie the bow, I think of my grandma. And I’ve continued her legacy by giving every family member an apron.

These tangible reminders are what keep our loved ones close and a continued part of our lives. I was reminded of this when we celebrated my daughter’s birthday at a restaurant this week-end. All grown up, I was surprised she wanted us to sing the family birthday song. The song dates back to my mom’s camping days and my mom made it a part of our family’s celebrations; I’ve passed it on to mine. My husband, daughter and I tried to sing quietly, clinking our glasses on cue. I thought how special it was that my mother’s legacy is still very much a part of our lives and I have every confidence that my daughter will pass it on to another generation.

Here are some ways to keep your memories alive, not just for you but for generations to come:

1. Display photographs where you can see them often. And use them as a way to share a story with other family members and friends.
2. Prepare and integrate family recipes into your daily life and holidays and let everyone know their history.
3. Share copies of your loved one’s recipes. When I share a recipe from my mom, I always title it “Jean’s ***” and it always give me pleasure. And I have recipes in my personal cookbook that bear the name of my friends’ loved ones.
4. Use a family heirloom, such as a serving piece, at holiday time, reminding your family of its history and all the occasions it’s served.
5. Pass on family heirlooms to family members that will use and treasure both the item and the memory.
6. Tell stories and tell them often. Your personal stories will become part of your family’s history.
7. Copy documents and share them with other family members to preserve and cherish your loved ones.
8. Document personal history and memories, creating a written story to be passed down to generations to come.

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.

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Blogger shivani said...

Thank you so much is all i have to say.Uptil now i thought tears were the only way but now i know how to deal with grief in such a way that i need not make others around me feel awful.Stubling on ur blog as i searched for words to comfort me i think yours was the best that could've happened.i take this to be yet another signal to move on and flow with the tide.

April 22, 2010 at 10:13 PM  

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