When a friend has lost a loved one: “I haven’t called because I don’t know what to say.”

"Blue Note" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

When a person experiences a tragedy like the loss of a child or partner, that loss will remain at the forefront of his or her mind for a very long time.

People are different in how they’d like to be approached about their loss. However, most people prefer that others acknowledge their loss in some manner—either through direct contact or at least a card.

While eventually the loss will feel less painful, life will never be the same after losing a child or partner. People who have lost a loved one need to grieve. It’s not usually helpful to point out that their pain may diminish. The idea of feeling better can seem like a betrayal of their love for that person.

Nothing you say will eliminate the pain. The most meaningful thing you can do is to reach out and acknowledge that loss and to remember the life of the loved one. You can also ask what you can do to help, such as bringing a meal or going to the store. You can express your compassion by simply being present or giving a hug without a word.

Most importantly, don’t avoid talking about and helping celebrate the loved one’s life. In a way people whom we love stay alive within us. Those who care most won’t turn away, but will keep the memories, love, and person alive, even while life inevitably moves on.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

In memory of Dex Gannon and Michael Young

Read “Compassion in Relationships.”

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