The Zinnia — Parent Loss
Compassion Package Tips
And answers to your pressing questions
What should I write in my card?
Be sincere and share how you're feeling without overshadowing their grief.
Example of sharing your pain in appropriate way: "Desi was such a positive light in my life. His humor brought me so much joy over the years. I will miss him terribly."Example of overshadowing the bereaved's pain: "This is the saddest thing that's ever happened to me — I don't know how I will get through this."
Share a fond memory if you have one - especially if the card receiver has never heard it.
Anything that stands out to you will be special, even if it seems insignificant.
Share how you will continue to remember and honor the deceased (examples below)
"I know Ralph loved key lime pie. Whenever I see it on the menu I'll be sure to order it and think of him." "My children are too young to remember your mom, but I will tell them about those adventurous summers we had camping together. I'm going to teach them how to light a campfire, just like how she taught me."
If you want to offer help, be specific. If you can make a commitment, do it.
Avoid (at all costs) 'call me if you need me' - this puts the burden of action on the person you are trying to help. They will never call you. Offer a concrete way to help. Try 'I will bring you dinner next week', or 'I can watch the kids for you on Friday morning' and follow up on your offer. If you are in a position to offer ongoing support, don't be shy about sharing what you can do. For example, "I am home every Sunday afternoon. I would love to have your kids over to our house on the weekend so you have time to yourself. They are welcome any and all Sundays." Or, "What would be more helpful, if I bring over dinner every Friday or take your dog for hikes instead?"
Avoid all platitudes. Common examples:
-You will get through this
-They're in a better place
-They'll always be with you/in your heart
-At least they....(didn't suffer, are no longer suffering, didn't know what was happening, had a chance to say goodbye, etc. etc. etc.)
-May your memories bring you comfort
-Everything happens for a reason/God needed an angel/God wouldn't give you more than you can handle
It is best not to mention what I'll call religious comfort. Keep in mind that people who find comfort in their faith may not find comfort in statements like the ones I've listed above in the very early days after a loss. It is best to err on the side of caution and leave them out.
Many of the religious statements or platitudes listed above are not really about about offering support. They're encouraging the bereaved to accept their new reality or express gratitude during heartache. Platitudes essentially come across as minimizing the bereaved's pain.
The advice listed above is just that — one person's advice. These are tips are based on what I've learned after speaking with many bereaved people, and also having written hundreds of cards myself. Trust your gut, and use these recommednations as a guide.
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