Approaching a loved one’s loss is something that comes up for most people during the course of their lives. But this is something that can be incredibly uncomfortable to navigate, and sometimes we end up behaving awkwardly, placing the emotional burden onto their shoulders. On today’s episode of She’s a Full on Monet, we introduce you to some helpful tools to help you offer an appropriate reaction to your loved one. We launch our conversation with emphasizing that although there are plenty of things you can say that are unhelpful, it’s always better to say something than to avoid speaking about the situation. We touch on why people say unhelpful things and talk about the power of making things less about the loss and more about how the person is doing. We talk about the period of grieving and how it isn’t necessary to put a limit to this, what not to say to people who have lost pregnancies and why ‘I’m thinking of you’ and ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ are the best things you can say to someone who is grieving. We talk about how your presence is more important than saying the perfect thing and touch on the danger of comparison and minimizing. Next, we chat about how the manner of someone’s passing should not impact how you approach their loved ones and dwell on the value of checking in consistently and regularly. We hope you join us for some practical guidance on how to approach a grieving loved one today. losing a loved one
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Key Points From This Episode:
The effect of our response to a loved one’s loss. losing a loved one
Why it’s better to say something than nothing at all.
Why we sometimes end up saying unhelpful things.
The power of making things less about the loss and more about how the person is doing.
The period of grieving and how you should be able to process it for as long as you need to.
The danger of suggesting fun activities too soon.
What not to say to people who have lost pregnancies.
Why ‘I’m thinking of you’ and ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ are the best things you can say.
Why sharing a memory of the person who passed away is a great thing to do.
How your presence is more important than saying the perfect thing.
The danger of comparison and minimizing. losing a loved one
Why the manner of someone’s passing should not impact how you approach their loved ones.
The value of checking in consistently and regularly.
“If you have lost someone, you’ll also understand the people who had an appropriate reaction and how that comforted you versus kind of putting their awkwardness and emotional burden onto your shoulders.” — Kelly Castillo [0:01:20]
“So if you are really nervous or uncomfortable, thinking that you’re going to say the wrong thing, I have to strongly encourage you. You saying something is better than not acknowledging it at all.” — Kelly Castillo [0:04:38]
“[Grief] goes through stages, and you should be allowed to feel and experience those stages in whatever order and for however long that you need to to process it.” — Kelly Castillo [0:15:10]
“Everybody’s grief, they’re entitled to it. If they’re feeling feelings, then those feelings are valid. You should not ever try to diminish another person’s pain or make them feel guilty for feeling it.” — Kelly Castillo [0:24:18]
“You’re walking in this space of grief with no guide of what’s the right way to do it.”— Megan Block [0:19:06]
“You don’t really need to go into the detail of the situation or the person or the death. You just need to tell that person you’re there.”— Megan Block [0:26:17]
“Be there on some level for them. If you’re not ready to say something because it just happened or it’s still so new, send something their way or just send a text saying, “Just thinking about you. I’m here anytime.” Just a small something is better than nothing.”— Megan Block [0:30:50]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
She’s A Full On Monet on Twitter losing a loved one
[00:00:02] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to She’s A Full On Monet, a digital lifestyle magazine for women. Every week, our editor-in-chief, Kelly Castillo, along with Megan Block, and special guests participate in a deep dive discussion about recent articles and topics we have covered. We invite you to become part of our community where everyone’s welcome.
[00:00:27] KC: Welcome to episode – Are we episode eight now? I think we’re episode eight. Yeah, that’s crazy.
[00:00:33] MB: We’re rolling along.
[00:00:35] KC: Of She’s A Full On Monet. I’m your host, Kelly Castillo, and I have here with me as usual, Megan.
[00:00:40] MB: Hello.
[00:00:42] KC: Today, we picked a lighter topic, the last couple of weeks, which I think everyone probably appreciated a little break from the heavy topics. But we’re kind of back with a heavy topic today. We wanted to talk about things to say and things not to say to someone when they’ve recently lost a loved one. I know this comes up for everyone at some point in their lives. They have to attend a funeral or they have a friend or family member who lost someone. A response is appropriate, but there’s a lot of things you can say that don’t help and definitely don’t make them feel better. If you have lost someone, you’ll also understand the people who had an appropriate reaction and how that comforted you versus kind of putting their awkwardness and emotional burden onto your shoulders.
So that’s the topic we’re covering today. Again, I’m sorry, it’s heavy. But I do hope that this topic does help someone out there who is dealing with this right now. So, yeah, that’s where we are. That’s today’s topic.
[00:01:49] MB: Yeah. No. I like the topic because it’s something I feel like we all can relate to, in some way, shape, or form. We can all either be on the receiving or the giving end of the situation, and we are all kind of going into it at some point for the first time. You mean well, but sometimes you’re like, “Oh.” Then you’re like falling back and making it worse. You’re like, “Man, if there was just like a rulebook on this whole thing because it’s so niche and so specific but also, again, so universal and so inevitable in a way, where I feel like everyone could use maybe just some insight from our Monet side on what would be the proper way to handle it. It’s not like this is black or white, but there are definitely some ones that are like, “No, no, no, no, no. You should stay away from it.” But, yeah, I think it’s very niche and very specific and very heavy but also very necessary to have some sort of guide to like, “What do I do or say?” It’s so important.
[00:02:43] KC: Yeah. I also think that the response that is appropriate for certain people or that you feel comfortable giving a lot of times has something to do with your religious faith or what you believe as far as afterlife is concerned. I know it’s people who are very religious. I have family members who are very religious, and they take great comfort in that faith. So faith-based responses for them are extremely comforting, where if you are not a person of faith and you aren’t religious or spiritual, maybe you don’t believe in an afterlife at all, then those kinds of responses will really fall flat and will not come for you and actually could offend. So I think a very big part of this is reading the room, knowing who you’re speaking.
[00:03:31] MB: Knowing your target audience and knowing a bit about them and knowing like if they are really religious and maybe you’re not, but maybe saying those words that you’re not necessarily comfortable with saying will give them some peace. But, yeah, definitely reading the room and knowing your audience. I also think a lot of it has to do with some people are just they get what they feel awkward when things that are uncomfortable come up, and it almost brings out like a more uncomfortable side of them. So sometimes, what can be perceived as being rude or insensitive is just their natural way of like handling the situation because they just like straight up don’t handle these situations well.
So certainly, for those people, if you’re looking for a bit of advice or a guideline on how to handle it because you’re just not good with those situations, who is? But you know what I mean? It just makes them feel almost like they want to avoid it. But what if it’s like your best friend? You can’t avoid that. You don’t want to seem insensitive. Or like your boss or your co-worker or something. You have to say something but you’re like, “What do I say?”
[00:04:34] KC: Yeah. We are going to give some suggestions today and talk about the proper things to say versus what isn’t usually helpful. But I want to preface this too by saying that I can’t tell you how many people I know who have lost someone close to them and did not hear from some of the people they thought were their closest friends afterwards. They did not get any condolences at all. So if you are really nervous or uncomfortable, thinking that you’re going to say the wrong thing, I have to strongly encourage you. You saying something is better than not acknowledging it at all.
[00:05:07] MB: [inaudible 00:05:07].
[00:05:08] KC: Yeah. Even if you’re uncomfortable, staying away from the people who are grieving. Witnessing another person’s grief is a very uncomfortable situation. It’s uncomfortable for every single person who is that comfort person, so, you’re not isolated from this. Nobody enjoys being around someone who is grieving. But at the same time, when your closest friends or other family members don’t reach out at all, don’t stay in touch with you, that is a very isolating feeling. So saying something, even if it’s maybe on our list of what not to say, that would be better than not saying anything.
[00:05:43] MB: Yes. 1,000%. It’s better to say something than nothing at all because that person silently – Knowing whether they can count on you in their darkest moments, unfortunately. If you just ghost them because it’s uncomfortable for you, I mean, yeah, it’s like I don’t want to be like, “Oh, it’s taking the easy way out.” Just send some sort of message, some sort of love some way, even if it’s on the list of what not to say, is certainly better than nothing at all.
[00:06:06] KC: For sure. For sure. So as we spoke about in earlier episodes, I lost my grandmother in 2017. She was like a mother to me, raised me, and was my person. So I found at that time that some people did exactly the right thing. Really what they brought to the table really comforted me and made me feel just – It was such a gesture of love and support. But a vast majority of people did not understand the level of grief I was dealing with because everybody loses their grandparents usually in their lifetime. The relationship that I had with my grandmother was not just an average grandparent-grandchild relationship. I had lost her to dementia, which is like losing someone slowly for years.
So I heard a lot of people saying things like, “Oh, well. She lived a long life.” That’s very true. She was 92 when she passed. That is a very long life. I was very blessed to have her as long as I did. That didn’t lessen the impact that her loss had on me. She could have been 102, and it would have hurt just the same. Or to hear someone just respond to say, “Oh, I lost my grandmother when I was 12.” Okay. Like I hear you that you’re trying to connect and tell me you know how it feels. But your statement sounded kind of competitive, and you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to make it about you when it needs to be about the other person and their loss.
There were a lot of things that I heard a lot. “She’s in a better place.” “Oh, she’s not suffering anymore.” Yes, she had dementia. Yes, her quality of life was greatly deteriorated. But it did not comfort me to think that it made me feel like my grieving process was selfish because I would have rather had her here with me than have her be gone, even though everyone was saying, “Oh, well. She’s not suffering anymore. She doesn’t have dementia in the next life.” Okay, I understand that. Like I know what you’re trying to say, but it felt kind of diminishing. It felt like they were trying to diminish my level of grief by saying I should be thankful or I should be grateful that she’s – Her pain is over.
In a sense, you are. But at the same time, your pain is real. Your pain is right now. So you don’t want to say anything that diminishes the other person’s pain and you don’t want to say anything that sounds like you’re one upping them or competing with them on the loss level. You definitely don’t want to comment about that the person had a long life or everybody has to go at some point. I know that. No one is living forever in this scenario. Anything that kind of makes the person’s grief feel less important or less relevant, or that they should be quick to get over it because of any kind of extenuating circumstances is just, in my opinion, not helpful.
[00:08:57] MB: Yeah. No, I completely agree. Sometimes, it’s like a sudden loss or like a not so – I just lost my grandpa actually over the pandemic and I heard all those things too. “Oh, he lived a long life.” Blah, blah, blah. It’s just like there’s nothing you can say to make it better. But saying those kinds of things, it’s like almost trying to lessen the hurt, when really all the person is trying to naturally do is make you feel like it’s going to be okay. It’s such a weird time.
That’s why for me when someone loses someone, regardless of the age or like the lifespan or whether it was expected or not or whether it was out of the blue, it’s just like, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m here for you. If there’s anything I can do.” I always try and send something like some sort of food or something like that because coming from someone who’s lost my mom and it was sudden and she wasn’t older, that helps a lot with my family because we didn’t want to prepare food. I just think that that’s a nice gesture because it’s thoughtful. But I don’t go and try and justify saying anything or go above and beyond because it’s just like, like I said, I was on the person who lost someone before I really knew anyone close to me who lost anyone. So I knew exactly what I didn’t want to hear. So I knew exactly what I didn’t want to say to other people.
It’s a tough situation regardless, but you definitely don’t want to try and lessen their pain by like bringing up obvious things like, “Oh, he lived a long life,” or, “Oh, they’re not in pain anymore.” It’s like we know these things. It’s just a natural thing that we want to do because we don’t want to just say nothing. I think we’re all afraid of that empty space of like nothing. That’s during the conversation, when you find someone lost someone, it’s like you got to fill it with something. So sometimes, our brain just goes into quick thinking mode, and you’re like stating random facts, and you’re like, “Oh, I think I’m making this worse.” It’s all for the good intention, right? It’s never mean intended. But it’s like sometimes, when our brain just goes into naturally thinking mode, it can kind of worsen it.
[00:11:03] KC: I agree. I think if you’re someone like either of us that has lost someone close to you, the closest person, then you do have much more empathy. You have much more understanding. I’m sure when you lost your mom, you’re probably the first person in your friend group to lose anybody. So everyone would have been –
[00:11:19] MB: I lost my mom before I lost my great grandma.
[00:11:22] KC: Yeah So everyone wouldn’t have had an idea of what to say.
[00:11:25] MB: Yeah. Even then, it was like sudden, and no one really saw it coming. So it wasn’t even like you can go to the natural like when someone loses a grand – Like when I lost my grandpa, and everybody was like, “Wow, 90 something. That’s amazing.” You’re like they almost feel worse because it was just so like out of the blue, and that person was robbed. But you don’t want to say anything to make the pain harder, so you just try and like – It’s like what do you say? You don’t say anything. You would say, “I’m here for you. I’m thinking about you.” If they’re somebody religious or you are and you feel comfortable saying, “You and your family are in my prayers,” that’s always nice. You and your family are in my thoughts. That’s always like an alternative, less religious alternative.
But sending flowers, sending food, that’s always like a – With a nice card that says, “Just thinking of you. Always here for you,” checking in on them just like, “How are you doing? I’m just thinking of you.” But making it less about the loss and more about them because they’re already consumed in the loss that they don’t need to be reminded of these facts or these feelings.
[00:12:27] KC: I think some people feel like, “Oh,” especially when that some time has passed. Some people feel like, “I don’t want to bring that person up anymore because I don’t want to remind them of the loss.” I’m here to tell you, we don’t need reminding. The loss is present every day in our lives. So you bringing up the person is not going to cause us pain or remind us. We have never forgotten. So I, for one, find it very comforting and really sweet when people bring up my grandmother. I love that. I love when people still say her name or talk about her because I feel like often me and my sister or my dad are the only ones still thinking about her. So it makes me feel less sad, less alone. I do like talking about her, so it’s nice when someone brings her up. I don’t –
[00:13:14] MB: Also, they were on this earth and then they weren’t, so it keeps their spirit alive. It’s like you were so ripped from their presence and their being so quickly, sometimes without notice. Even when we have notice, it’s still just like –
[00:13:26] KC: Jarring. Yeah.
[00:13:27] MB: That it’s like just bringing up like, “Oh, I remember when your grandma did this,” or, “Oh, you look like – Your eyes are like your grandma’s eyes.” It just makes like them feel like for a moment they’re with us. That’s great.
[00:13:39] KC: Yes. I have a friend. Her and her husband are good friends of mine and my husband, and we traveled together. We took a lot of trips together. They would come and stay at our house. We would go to their house in LA and stay over. We were very close. About two years ago, she died, and it was a violent situation. So it was very sudden, unexpected. Her husband has been in a really dark place since then. He’s having a really hard time understandably dealing with this and the court case that followed and everything that happened. So I know I’ve spoken with other mutual friends of ours, and they have sometimes expressed not that he should be over it by now but that his grief is going on so long. They’re finding it tedious. It’s hard to be around him. It’s all he talks about. It’s –
[00:14:29] MB: It’s emotionally draining for someone else to be and it’s like at some point –
[00:14:35] KC: Yeah. But I mean, telling someone, “Oh, they died so long ago. You should be over this by now, that is definitely not helpful.
[00:14:42] MB: No. I’ve had people tell me that about my mom that I was – To be fair, I was very depressed and very sad for a very long time, and I did use that situation as what you can call a crutch. But to say out loud that like you need to like move on from it, like I don’t care who passed away. No one has the right to say that to anyone.
[00:15:00] KC: No. Your grief is a process.
[00:15:02] MB: Your grief is your own. [inaudible 00:15:03]. Yeah.
[00:15:05] KC: Yeah. It’s a process and it’s probably a process you’ll have the rest of your life. So it goes through stages, and you should be allowed to feel and experience those stages in whatever order and for however long that you need to to process it. Yeah. If you start using it as a crutch, definitely that’s an issue. But at the same time –
[00:15:24] MB: If you need to, seek like additional help, then there’s a way to go about telling that person in a loving way. But to like straight up tell them like get over it like it was like a bad boyfriend decision, it’s like not the same thing. It’s a personal journey. Yes, it takes people sometimes longer than others. But who is anyone to say that? We’re not in that person’s shoes. We didn’t just lose our so-and-so. Even then, it’s a personal loss.
[00:15:49] KC: Right. My grief, if I’m grieving, isn’t going to look like your grief if you’re grieving. Everybody is individual. So if you think someone is handling it too well, and they’re not taking it seriously enough or they are down in the dumps for years and they’re becoming boring to be around, their grief is their process. It doesn’t need to look like what your process look like or what anyone else’s did. So that’s definitely being patient with the person going through the process is a huge thing.
Some of the other things I’ve heard people say that don’t help is there’s a reason for everything. That doesn’t help. I don’t see how that is supposed to comfort or help anybody. Or it was their time to go. How is that meant to comfort? I don’t understand.
[00:16:32] MB: I get it. All things to me as human beings, the thought has crossed our minds, and it does not help. Because I think when we’re going through those stages of grief and like acceptance, all those different things, I think our brain tries to grasp on to from the most logistical to the most insane concepts of why this happened. Our brain is already thinking, “Well, it was their time to go. Well, they’re not in pain anymore.” So with you saying, it’s just like, “Yeah, our brain is already trying to like give a reason to this terrible thing that has just ripped my universe. Thank you.”
[00:17:06] KC: I think if we’re talking to someone we don’t know very well and they’re telling us about a death, our first question is naturally how did they die. First of all, that question is so stupid. How they died does not equate at all to who they were.
[00:17:18] MB: But again, the natural human just curiosity, it goes on, especially if it’s out of the blue or someone’s young or they were [inaudible 00:17:26]. It’s just crazy.
[00:17:28] KC: Yeah. We want to run down a checklist of whether or not I personally am in danger from this thing.
[00:17:34] MB: Yeah. Or if it was expected or like – I don’t know. You just want to like understand where this is on the scale of – Your brain just – That’s the brain trying to process it.
[00:17:43] KC: It doesn’t matter how the person died. It doesn’t impact how much they’re missed or the grieving process. Oftentimes, it might be a very delicate subject for people and be quite offensive to ask that question. But it’s our way of dealing with our own mortality. We want to say, “Oh, they had lung cancer. Did they smoke? Okay, I’m safe.” It’s such a selfish question.
[00:18:04] MB: Totally.
[00:18:05] KC: Yeah. We make it about us, and it isn’t about us.
[00:18:08] MB: Totally. Yeah, it’s terrible. It’s absolutely – There’s no good thing about this. I certainly also think it’s not something to necessarily not say, but it’s something to not maybe do, and it goes along in the line with patients. It’s like sometimes people like to take something like somebody losing someone and turn it into like, “Oh, well. Let’s just like go on vacation and get your mind off of it.” Or like trying to rush like normalcy or a fun situation, a light-hearted situation too quickly when the person is not there yet, and making it seem like that’s going to solve anything or like [inaudible 00:18:41] it for a minute, and they’re not reacting right.
[00:18:43] KC: Then they don’t react properly.
[00:18:46] MB: It’s like –
[00:18:46] KC: Right. Then they’re ungrateful out of what you did for them that you took them on vacation. You planned a dinner. You did this and that.
[00:18:51] MB: Yeah. You’re like out of your – I certainly think some getting out of the environment for sure of the negativity, especially if you shared the home with someone or like, “Yeah, go for a walk.” But like trying to plan a girl’s trip to Vegas is like not appropriate, and it makes the person feel like you’re walking in this space of grief with no guide of what’s the right way to do it. So if someone gives you a suggestion, and heaven forbid, if someone has lost someone, maybe when they were a kid, they lost their dad not in the same timeframe that you were in it, I’m thinking that suggesting something like a girls’ trip is not appropriate because they’re just going to feel obligated to do it. Because they’re like, “Well, maybe this is what I should do. Maybe this will fix everything.” It’s like this pressure to like, “Oh, well. Maybe this is what I –” Because you don’t know. You don’t know that that is going to actually make it worse or that’s going to actually make you feel pressure to feel normal when you’re not there yet.
[00:19:44] KC: Right. It puts the burden of other people’s experience on your shoulders. You –
[00:19:48] MB: Totally. Or you have to like suppress your feelings because you’re around people and you don’t want to just lose it around people. Like that’s not an okay thing. No one ever personally did that to me, but I’ve seen people do that with extreme breakups and deaths, where they think it’s just like it’ll make it better. Like, “Oh, let’s go to Fiji.” No. Like come at me in six months when I’m a better, more well-rounded person, and I’ve come to terms with what just happened.
[00:20:11] KC: Exactly.
[00:20:12] MB: Yeah. I think it’s just definitely maybe not what to say but what not to do and what not to think to do quite yet.
[00:20:18] KC: Yeah. I want to touch on something that I feel like should be obvious as women that I think this is a really important point. If you have a friend or family member, a loved one, who loses a child or loses a pregnancy, please do not tell them they can have another baby. Please do not do that. They know. They know.
[00:20:37] MB: I forgot about that one. That one’s tough. I went through – You know because you were there around that time. Like I went through a miscarriage, and that’s like a whole another – Please do not bring up that they’ll have another child. Please, for the love of God, do not bring up, like statistics like, “Oh, one in four women have it.” Like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know I was all of a sudden a statistic.” Or like –
[00:21:00] KC: Or in your case, to tell you, “Oh. Well, at least you have one child already.” Like okay.
[00:21:06] MB: [inaudible 00:21:06]. There’s a lot you can touch on that subject. I even had somebody close to me tell me to not talk about it because it made them feel uncomfortable, and they were thinking that it would make other people – I posted something about it on social media. This person who’s very close to me decided that, first of all, man, doesn’t know a clue about what is going on in that world.
[00:21:29] KC: He mansplained your grief to you.
[00:21:32] MB: Yeah. Let me talk about the women. But told me not to talk about it because it would make other people uncomfortable, and I’m like, “Oh, like so much.” We all know about how it’s not talked about enough. It’s a whole other part of grief and losing, a child loss, whether they were a miscarriage or sudden.
[00:21:49] KC: A stillbirth, whatever, a SIDS, anything.
[00:21:51] MB: All that’s awful.
[00:21:53] KC: Or I’ve had people lose friends of mine lose children in infancy to sudden infant death, to other things, and I’ve had people tell them, “Oh, well, At least you didn’t really know the baby. It didn’t have, like, a personality.”
[00:22:06] MB: Oh, my gosh. That is actually [inaudible 00:22:08] to fathom that someone would actually say that to another human being. I’m hearing that but I don’t believe it. That’s –
[00:22:14] KC: It’s so callous and just unfeeling because it doesn’t matter if we already have other kids. It doesn’t matter if we can have other kids. This baby or child was an independent human being that is not replaceable. It’s so –
[00:22:27] MB: I can say from personal experience that the minute that you find out that you’re pregnant, you are thinking about that baby 24/7. Every decision you make from how you sleep to what you eat to what you say, to how your stress levels are, to how much water you take, you’re thinking about that child. That child is very much a part of you since the minute you find out you’re pregnant. So when somebody is like, “Oh, you didn’t like know,” like I was very attached to my – I lost mine like two and a half months in. I didn’t even – But it was traumatizing, so to [inaudible 00:22:57] a person.
[00:22:56] KC: On top – If it’s a miscarriage, if it’s a stillbirth, if it’s SIDS, if it’s something like that that isn’t childhood cancer, there’s already an attachment, and we as women already have a tremendous amount of guilt over, “Is this my body that did this? Did I do something wrong? Could I have done something different?” That’s a normal thought process we go through. Hopefully, we don’t stay in that thought process because it isn’t healthy. But when like –
[00:23:21] MB: We also have like, PTSD. You also worry. Is this going to happen to me again? You also have to deal with your partner losing this life as well. There’s like all this happening at once. Yeah, that’s a whole side of death that’s like very hard to say anything to someone, but there are certain things in the child death and infant death and miscarriage world that like you should never say. We just covered some very basic ones.
[00:23:46] KC: Please.
[00:23:47] MB: Please never say that because there’s always an attachment.
[00:23:50] KC: I’m not making any comparisons here. This is not the same thing. But even people who are grieving the loss of a pet, people’s pets are family to them, and they have them for 15, 20 years often.
[00:24:02] MB: They’re their first child. Like mine, when I lost mine, that was my first kid. I grieved that. It’s just pretty hard, really hard. Some people, like they can’t have children and those are their children and will forever be their children. You have to be sensitive to that for sure.
[00:24:16] KC: Right. But dismissing it, telling them they’re being ridiculous, asking them right away, “Why don’t you just get a new dog,” like, “Oh, people.” Everybody’s grief, they’re entitled to it. If they’re feeling feelings, then those feelings are valid. You should not ever try to diminish another person’s pain or make them feel guilty for feeling it.
[00:24:36] MB: Yeah. If it makes you uncomfortable, just check in via text. It doesn’t have to be super personal, but you don’t have to like involve your world around it so much if they’re not super close to you. But just know that if they are close to you, from personal experience, you as well, they’re going to be kind of like a little bit of this for a while, and they’re going to be maybe not like the most fun gal in the bunch for a little bit or guy in the bunch. You’re just going to have to – That’s the part of a relationship, whether it’s romantic or not, that you just, for better or worse, right? Like even if it’s a best friend, like you just got to – Because at some point, it’s going to happen to you. You’re going to lose your mom, your dad, your sister or brother, and you’re going to want that person that you were not there for to be there for you. You’re going to want somebody to be there for you. People –
[00:25:16] KC: Yeah. None of us are immune to loss. We will all in our lifetimes lose the people that we love. I mean, just try. If you’ve never been through it, then try to imagine how you would feel in that situation and what would help you. If you really feel uncomfortable, you don’t know what to say, you’re too afraid to say the wrong thing, like Megan said, just send a text. All it needs to say is, “Thinking of you.”
[00:25:38] MB: Or a cookie platter.
[00:25:40] KC: Yeah, thinking of you, sending you warm thoughts, anything like that. It doesn’t need to be super personal. You don’t need to write that person a beautiful poem or something. No one’s putting expectations on you.
[00:25:51] MB: I send like edible arrangements. They have a nice like sympathy platter. It’s really nice. I had it sent to me when I lost my grandpa and I’m telling you, it made my week because it was an extra thought. There was just this small card, but it was just the thought thing.
[00:26:04] KC: Somebody thought of you. Reached out.
[00:26:05] MB: [inaudible 00:26:05] feel like they’re being thought about.
[00:26:08] KC: Yeah. Everyone just wants their pain to be acknowledged and for someone to just say –
[00:26:11] MB: Yeah. A card or text.
[00:26:13] KC: Saying, “Hey, I’m thinking of you.” Yeah. That’s all that most people need.
[00:26:17] MB: You don’t really need to go into the detail of the situation or the person or the death. You just need to tell that person you’re there.
[00:26:23] KC: Things that are the best I think to say are, again, basic stuff. I’m thinking of you. I’m sending you warm thoughts. You’re in my thoughts. I’m sorry for your loss. You can’t offend anyone with that statement, and it’s, I mean, the most basic statement of condolences.
[00:26:38] MB: It’s so funny. It’s like if it’s not written on a card, you probably shouldn’t say it. I mean, like no one ever saw a card that was like, “Oh, well. At least they’re not in pain anymore.” It’s just – What’s on those kind of cards? Thinking of you, sending condolences, sending thoughts. Just think of what’s on a condolence card and put that.
[00:26:55] KC: Yeah, exactly. You can be honest with the person and say, “I don’t have the right words,” or, “I don’t know what to say but I’m here for you. I’m thinking of you.” I mean, if you want to go beyond that, you definitely can. But I think that’s the most basic. Yeah.
[00:27:10] MB: I mean, honestly, if you’re like, “I don’t have the words there,” or, “There are no words to make what is going on better at the moment. Just know I’m here for you,” like that’s honest and true and factual. Then that also relieves you of finding the words.
[00:27:23] KC: Yeah, exactly. I think what probably touched me the most, especially at my grandmother’s service, which we had months after her passing, but there were so many people there that I had never met before that introduced themselves and explained how they were a part of my grandmother’s life. They would all tell me a story or share a memory of my grandmother, things I had never heard before. That, to me – I even had them write them down because it was the most special thing to me to just be able to be thinking of her and sharing something and feeling that closeness with her to hear a story about her that I’d never heard.
That I think if you have a memory of the person, it’s like a friend’s parent that you were at their house a lot when you were younger, you can say, “Your dad made the best pancakes on Saturday morning. I’ll never forget that.” Those little reminders of a happy memory are probably the most comforting thing I can imagine sharing with someone who’s lost someone.
[00:28:17] MB: Again, it just brings them back to life for a few minutes. I love that. I think it’s so true. Coming from two people who have lost someone very close, take that for what we say. It is truth because it makes you forget that they’re gone for a second. It’s really kind of cool.
[00:28:33] KC: It makes you focus on a part of their life that wasn’t about them passing. I mean, if you don’t know the person who passed very well, if you had met them once or not at all and you just want to say something deeper than I’m thinking of you, you can just tell the person, “I know how much they meant to you and I know how much they’ll be missed. They must have been so special for you to have those feelings.” Or ask them to share a memory with you that they have. Most people would really like to be talking about the person that they lost. So if you ask them to share something about their loved one beyond how did they pass, what was their favorite color, what’s your favorite memory, like something like that, that is a very helpful and thoughtful thing I think. Yeah.
Definitely, again, like we said, no minimalizing and no comparisons. But I think like my friend who lost his wife, it’s been two years now. Whenever something happens in my day-to-day life and I think immediately, “Oh, I should call her.” Then I remember, of course, I can’t because I wanted to tell her about something that happened that I know she would appreciate. Or I will email him and I’ll say, “I thought of her today. I saw this thing that I would have loved to take her to.” Or when, Gabby, when my daughter got into the same college that she went to, she didn’t end up going there but she got in. I took a picture of the entrance letter and I sent it to my friend’s husband and I said, “I really wanted to share this with her today because I know she would have a lot to say about this.”
So it’s just really kind of I hope, and he’s always responded very positively and said, “Thank you so much. Every time you reach out, it reminds me that I’m not the only one thinking of her and that she’s not forgotten and you always share something positive.” I don’t do that, I mean, just for him. I do it for me too because oftentimes, we want to share something with that person who’s no longer here. So sharing it with their loved ones is just another way to kind of keep their memory alive.
[00:30:25] MB: I love that. That’s super cool. That’s true.
[00:30:28] KC: Yeah. So this is a difficult topic, and I don’t think there’s a script that you can go off of that will be comforting every person’s individual and what’s going to be most comforting to them as individual as well. But I think the tips that we gave are a good starting point. Again, the biggest thing is not to say nothing. I had –
[00:30:50] MB: Be there on some level for them. If you’re not ready to say something because it just happened or it’s still so new, if you’re able to, send something their way or just send a text saying, “Just thinking about you. I’m here anytime.” Just a small something is better than nothing.
[00:31:09] KC: Yeah. My youngest daughter who’s 19, and she lost two friends during the COVID quarantine and not from COVID, from other reasons, but that was a very difficult time for her because they were her age, and that’s always hard when you’re young, and you lose someone who is young as well. It really makes you face your mortality. It wasn’t the first person her age that she had lost or a close friend that she had lost, but it was too kind of in a row. I think when it’s your child that you’re trying to comfort and the person who passed is also a child, there’s not a lot that they can grasp in that emotional time period because they’re teenagers or younger. A lot of what would comfort someone who’s older and in maybe more rational thinking isn’t necessarily going to comfort them.
She couldn’t be around her friends when this happened because of the quarantine. One of the people who passed was the younger brother of one of her very best friends from a car accident. One was another of her very close friend that she saw on a very regular basis. So the only thing that I could really do was to tell her that I was there for her and to just physically be there with her, just sit with her, and let her cry it out. Let her tell me all her feelings and not invalidate them and not tell her she was wrong for feeling them or that other people had lost more people or in worse ways. I mean, don’t do that. Don’t do comparison or minimalizing. I just sat with her and I just let her cry it out and tell me how she was feeling and how it was affecting her and to just let her know I was there. I mean, that’s all you can do sometimes is just physically be there.
[00:32:46] MB: Just physically be there so that they don’t feel so – They’re already feel emotionally alone. But to not feel physically alone, sometimes it’s just good to have a person there, so they don’t go further into a darker spiral of a place. They just need to be kind of like kept at bay in a certain area, and having somebody there is good. They don’t feel like pressured like you have to do stuff while you’re there. Just –
[00:33:08] KC: No. I think I literally just sat next to her and rubbed her back and let her cry. I mean, she was having a hard time processing how someone could be here one day and not be here the next because when you’re 19, 18, that’s a new concept for you. So she was dealing with immense amount of grief and the tragedy of losing someone young in horrible circumstances and then also her own ideas of mortality like, “If this could happen to them, then this could happen to me,” which we all know that. I mean, as adults, we face our mortality on a regular basis. But every time we get mammograms or pap smears or go to the doctor, we’re like, “Oh, God. I hope it’s nothing terrible.”
But when you’re 18 and 19, you think you’re invincible. You think you’re 10-foot tall. You’re bulletproof. Nothing ever bad is going to happen to you. When the worst thing happens to someone your same age, that brings up a whole bunch of other thoughts.
[00:34:01] MB: Yeah. The world gets a little less safe and cozy feeling, and the world gets a little darker. I lost my mom when I was 20. That was like I never had to like lose like somebody the same age, but I just feel like – When you lose that person, the first person that’s close to you, and you have to really think about mortality and just like that, the world just gets a little less warm feeling. It just shifts you as a person. Sometimes, it happens younger. Sometimes, it happens when you’re a teenager, and it’s just like it’s a whole new world of process. That’s terrible when it’s somebody that’s young too because then they’re processing the fact that they missed out on so much.
[00:34:41] KC: Yeah, losing.
[00:34:42] MB: They didn’t expect that to happen to them.
[00:34:44] KC: Right. Losing people at that age changes the way you see the whole world and your perspective. Your whole paradigm changes. I know as she went off to college, as she’s been doing other milestones have happened in her life, she’s facing the fact that that person that she was so close to will never reach those milestones. So that is a very difficult thing. I know, I mean, in some respects, it’s like that for you because every milestone you’ve reached that your mother would normally be there for like your wedding, your birth of your children.
[00:35:11] MB: It’s almost like re visiting the death right each time. It’s just so sad, regardless of what side you’re on.
[00:35:17] KC: Yeah. I also – I mean, in this same vein, when there’s a lot of young people today that passed from suicide or drug overdoses or as a result of issues with mental health and addiction. I just want to point out that however they passed is not something that should impact how you respond to their family and their loved one and the grief that you express and that you allow them to feel and the condolences that you give. There should be absolutely no shadow of how they passed.
[00:35:49] MB: We feel like whether you want to admit it openly or not, if we found out somebody whose child died from something that was like self-inflicted, we almost feel like less bad about the situation. Or our brain wants to feel less bad about it because it’s like, “Well, they were in this dark place and like –” Versus somebody who just got randomly hit by a car accident or something like that. It’s like what happened to them should not matter how you respond to their grief or it just – You should just – Man, you should just [inaudible 00:36:16].
[00:36:16] KC: I feel as though that there’s more awkwardness in those situations because there’s another layer on top of the grief. The parents have probably guilt. They probably have their own feelings they’re dealing with of why did this happen, what could we have done. They don’t –
[00:36:32] MB: They may have been battling it for a while. That person may have gotten better at one point, and then they got blindsided by the fact that they weren’t better. They may have been hiding their addiction for years and not even known it. You don’t want to just assume you know what’s going on and just react to whatever you think you’re assuming. You don’t know what’s the backstory is.
[00:36:52] KC: No. You never know how hard someone fought. You never know how deep their issues were or what else they were dealing with. So just don’t allow the manner of their passing, whether it was something that could have been prevented or something they brought upon themselves or whatever you think in your own judgmental thoughts. Don’t allow that to come through in the condolences that you offer and the amount that you’re there for the family because families going through something like that, there are so many of them these days. There are so many of these young people.
[00:37:24] MB: My brother’s four years younger than me. He’s lost so many more people than I will lose within the next – He’s younger than me, and it’s also the same stuff that you listed like drug addiction.
[00:37:34] KC: My daughter too.
[00:37:35] MB: It’s so sad. Yeah. It’s like that age –
[00:37:36] KC: Samantha too. Yeah.
[00:37:38] MB: How old is Samantha again?
[00:37:40] KC: 23.
[00:37:41] MB: Okay, yeah. Kevin’s like – He’s in his 30s, but it’s terrible, that age area from the 20s [inaudible 00:37:46] because people have so many people that have –
[00:37:49] KC: When I was in high school, we lost a kid who like fell in an icy lake. That was a really bizarre loss. We lost someone from a car accident or being hit by a car. Then there were some drunk driving situations because this was before Uber, right? It was the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
[00:38:05] MB: That was the thing. Yeah.
[00:38:06] KC: Yeah. I never lost anyone to suicide. I never lost anyone to overdose. When I was in high school, no one in my whole high school died of that. But now, every single one of my kids has lost a friend to suicide or drug overdose or more than one friend. I mean several of the kids. There’s been more than one. It’s so hard to say the right thing in those circumstances because there’s multiple layers of grieving and of pain, and the parents feel very judged and very isolated. So it’s the time when you need to reach out the most and just offer unconditional support to say, “I’m so sorry. I’m here for you.”
[00:38:38] MB: And check in. Not just one time. Sometimes, people think like, “Oh, I checked in.” Check in again. Check in two months. Check in there two weeks. Check in and check in again. They’re going through different parts at different times, and they’re going to need different things at different times. They may actually want to talk to you at different parts at different times.
[00:38:59] KC: Yeah, I think that’s a very important point and that’s probably what we’ll leave this with is that people – Everyone comes out of the woodwork in the first few days to offer their condolences, to send things, to cook for you. They say how sorry they are. Then it’s a month or two months or six months or the anniversary, and the grief is still there for you, but nobody really wants to hear about it anymore, and no one’s reaching out anymore. So if this is a close person to you and you feel comfortable doing that, reach out later on. Reach out at the anniversary. The times when maybe everyone else has stopped reaching out because that’s when they need someone the most. So, yeah, like Megan said, definitely reach out more than once.
[00:39:39] MB: Things have kind of bagged down and the circus has kind of died down as I call it, and they’re actually alone to process it and come to terms and go through the stages. That’s when you still want to check back in on the person.
[00:39:53] KC: Yeah. So the article about this topic will be coming out either today or tomorrow. So I definitely encourage everyone to read it. I feel like we covered a lot of really good tips today, but we’ll definitely go in depth in the article as well. We’d love to hear from you guys. If you have comments or suggestions, you can leave them on our Facebook discussion group or you can comment on the article itself. We always love to hear from you guys. We want to thank you for listening. We appreciate the support and we’ll see you guys next week. Bye-bye.
[END OF EPISODE]
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