Read this if you need help expressing sympathy during loss
6:19 pm | September 10, 2020
Experiencing loss totally sucks. Trying to figure out what to say or what to do for someone that has experienced loss, that also sucks. I wanted to make sympathy and bereavement one of my first posts, honestly, because it’s one of the things I have struggled with most. It’s ugly but it’s necessary. So, let’s deal with it and move on to happier things.
What do I say?
There are no words that take the pain from a grieving soul. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been silent more times than I should have - because a facebook comment or text message felt so impersonal and calling can be just awkward. Truth is, acknowledgement in any form is better than nothing. Start with sending a brief text or Facebook (I prefer DM) to acknowledge someone’s loss, and remind them they are loved and not alone. If you don’t have personalized note cards on hand, GET SOME - they’re handy for literally every occasion! I have these from Moo and these from Vistaprint. In the lonely weeks post-loss handwritten notes are especially meaningful. Here's a quick guide if you need help.
What about food?
It depends. Taking food, as us southerners were trained to do, isn’t always the best idea. If everyone shows up with sweet tea, casserole, and dessert, refrigerating and storing all that food becomes a nightmare for a grieving family. During my grief, eating was the last thing on my mind. I’d much rather light a candle, curl up in a soft blanket or robe and find comfort in being around those who love me most. A prepaid supper at a local restaurant, ordered to their liking and at their convenience, is a thoughtful way to provide food in the aftermath. Pastries or bagels delivered from a local bakery are also a safe choice.
The Best Gift.
Provide a judgement free space for someone to grieve. You never really know the hurt or fear someone is carrying. Even if you’ve been through similar loss, allow others to create their own experiences. I’ve seen people laughing when I thought they shouldn’t, heard someone talk about getting remarried before their spouse was buried (tough one!), and have seen people take to social media like a trainwreck. We all grieve differently. Don’t compromise your relationship by giving unsolicited judgement; that’s the voice of experience speaking.
Gifts of service.
Not all of us have the means to give tangible gifts. Even if you do, sometimes the most meaningful gift we can give is our time. Offer your loved one some quiet time away from their kids and/or pets. Offer to clean their house or help with laundry, or offer up your own maid service for a day. Maybe they need help with errands? If you’re genuinely interested in helping, be observant. The need usually exposes itself and many people, including myself, would never ask for help.
Gifts to drink.
Since we’re talking about gifts for loss, champagne or bubbly is OUT - unless it's an ex (only kidding!). If alcohol is your gift of choice, know your audience. Liquor gifts, to me, feel celebratory. “Hey, sorry to hear your father just passed, here’s a bottle of tequila.” That said, in talking with my dude friends, they feel this is totally acceptable and a thoughtful gesture for guys.
I would choose wine. Wine seems most suitable - whether you ship it or show up in person to spend time enjoying together. Even if the recipient doesn’t drink wine, there will likely be other guests around that will appreciate the gesture. Some of my favorite reasonably priced bottles (found at most grocery stores) to give are Meiomi Pinot Noir, Charles Krug Cabernet, A to Z Pinot Noir, Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc or Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc. If you'd like more recommendations, just ask. I'm no sommelier but always enjoy talking about wine and exploring something new.
Gifts to unwrap.
If you want to buy, ship or personally deliver something to unwrap, here are my tried-and-true favorites…