In Times of Loss

05 March 2014

In light of the recent loss of my grandmother I want to share my thoughts on loss with you. I'll prelude this by saying that I truly believe each loss is different. It's different when you lose a grandmother, a mother, a father, an uncle, a pet... each loss is different. It also varies from person to person. How one person reacts to the death of a sister could be vastly different from another person who experienced a similar loss.

For me, loss is entirely colored by the loss of my mom when I was 18. Every time I hear of death, or mothers, or sometimes seemingly random other topics I think of losing her far too early. Here are some general things to say and not to say when someone experiences the loss of a loved one. Of course, these are general guidelines because everyone is different.

Things to say/do:
- I'm sorry for your loss. (Seems simple and understated, but we all know there's no way to fix it... just commiserating means a lot and we know what you're conveying).
- If there's anything I can do to help, let me know.
- Share memories of the deceased that are special to you. (When I lost my mom some of her girlfriends from high school and college told me stories that I had never heard. It is still, six years later, so refreshing to know that I can still learn things about her... that it's not all in the past).
- Give photos of the loved one for the family to keep.
- Ask them how they are doing. People often fear that they are bringing up bad thoughts/memories but even if no one talks about it, that person is still remembering and hurting.

Things NOT to say or do:
- Don't compare your loss to theirs. I had this problem a lot when I lost my mom. People would compare the loss of my mom to the loss of their dog! You KNOW how much I love Odin (a ton) but it is just inconsiderate and insensitive to compare the two.
- On that note, don't compare the loss of people. I was closer to my mom than to anyone else in my family, but that doesn't mean that someone else wasn't raised by their grandmother. Maybe that particular loss is even harder for some people.
- Don't tell someone that you know how it feels. Unless the person experiencing a fresh loss asks for a comparison or for a guide on how you got through YOUR loss, refrain from making another comparison.

As a side note, the photo above is of a plant that was given to my mother-in-law at her father's funeral. Noah and I are now the owners of it as she is moving to Iowa and doesn't think it will make it with her on that journey. Giving flowers or making donations in memory of someone is a great way to express care and concern to the family.


Kamana said...

I agree with you on the comparison. However well meant it is, it seems so insensitive. I had someone compare my grandmother's death to losing her books in a fire. I was very offended.

Bluebird49 said...

My mother died at 96, when I was 62---it still seemed much too soon! She still had all her faculties. We never are ready to lose our mothers, nor ready to lose anyone beloved by us.
You gave such good advice! I lost my 31-year-old daughter 15 years ago. I knew nobody understood how I felt, but a woman who had lost her son at age 15 held my hand and said, "I understand." When she told me her story---well, her circumstances seemed even worse, though we'd both lost our darlings. We have been close friends for 15 years...she knew what to say, and how to listen.

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