Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Two important things you can do to comfort someone who has lost a loved one

If my mother-in-law was still with us, today would have been her 78th birthday.

She is not here, however, as we lost her to lung cancer last summer.

This kind of thing is obviously not unique to my family or anyone else's. Death is a part of the human condition, and people have been dealing with it in their own personal ways for thousands of years.

I think it's the milestones you encounter in those first 12 months after a person passes away that are the most difficult.

First they're gone one month. Then two. Then three. Then comes a major holiday like Christmas, your first without them. Then comes their birthday. And then comes the one-year mark since they've been gone, and you can't believe it has been that long already.

There are at least two things Terry and I learned when our mothers passed away within three weeks of each other.

One is the value of a meal. When a friend experiences the loss of a loved one, you may see a rush of people stepping up to provide a home-cooked dinner for them or a gift certificate for food delivery, and you may think, "They don't need more food."

In our experience, there is no such thing. For at least the next few weeks, the last thing that person is going to want to do is cook. They can always freeze what you give them. Trust me, the meal you provide will be greatly appreciated and gratefully consumed. Food is, interestingly enough, one of the greatest gifts you can give.

The other lesson is this: After the initial rush of condolences and the memorial service, you will go back to your normal routine, but the person who lost the loved one is still experiencing a lot of pain. Reaching out to them a week later, or two weeks later, or a month later (or on one of these milestone days) just to say hello, see how they're doing, and asking if there's anything you can do for them, is the kindest of gestures.

And again, if you haven't been there yourself, you don't know how highly appreciated it will be.

So happy birthday, Judy, even though you're not here so we can give you a card and a gift.

And remember, little things mean a lot when you're trying to comfort someone who is just beginning the grieving process.

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