If there is anything I can do...

PODCAST: WHY WE SUCK AT CONDOLENCE

I recently had a beautiful chat on The Wabi Sabi Series Podcast which shines a light on the way I feel about Grief and condolence, I hope you learn a thing or two here. The 'Silk Ring Theory' that we discuss can be found in resources under Susan Goldman. 

Offering condolence is tough. But death is so common; it happens to all of us. I want to break down the taboo that surrounds death, dying and grief. Any discomfort we feel is associated with a fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.

There is no wrong, so long as you make an effort.

React immediately

Put aside your own feelings and respond to the situation as soon as you can.

Say their name

Do not shy away from saying the deceased person's name. This is music to a grieving person's ears. They aren't forgotten.

Flowers die too

There are more creative gift ideas that won't leave them overwhelmed dealing with waste or mouldy vase water. 

Don't forget

Life moves forwards for you, but not for people who are grieving. Check in from time to time. They will need hugs forever more.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

  • Respond as soon as you hear the news - card in mail and voice mail

  • Send a (physical) card, a virtual "like" or private message does not make up for this in any way

  • Be honest. "This is fu*#ed" is perfect, as it's true!

  • Respect your place - if you aren't close, don't show up on their doorstep

  • Visits are exhausting, make it quick, they need rest

  • Arrange to babysit for other children

  • Do not post anything about their situation on your own social network without permission

  • Go to the funeral, where appropriate

  • Small things - take the dirty washing, make the bed, unstack the dishwasher, clear the fridge

  • Respect their requests - no flowers, no food, no visits, donations instead etc.

  • Just be there. Whether you get a response or not - still call, still text, still drop notes on the doorstep, knowing that others are thinking of you really does help

  • Offer assistance with the funeral - transport, photos, music, catering etc.

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO SAY

  • Say the name of the person who died

  • Listen

  • Avoid sharing a story of how something similar to you, this is not the time

  • Don't shy from difficult words? Dead, death, funeral etc.

  • Euphemisms are crass

  • If all else fails you "I am sorry for your loss" is perfect

  • Avoid visiting if you have no words at all and will avoid talking about the death

  • Ask if they want to talk about the details, some will, some won't

  • Do not make excuses - this is not about you.

 

 

 

 

WHAT TO GIVE OR SEND

  • Flowers die, a plant or succulent is a nice substitute

  • If you do send flowers, make them bright and include a vase

  • Bring real, healthy food. I would have killed for a salad but all we got was lasagne, ragu, stews etc.

  • If you cook: portion it, label it, freeze it

  • A book, a magazine are all lovely gifts as is a good quality candle

  • Vouchers are great, with no time limit: local restaurant or cafe, massages, magazine subscription, a hotel for a mini-break

  • Food vouchers are even better. (In NSW) The Dinner Ladies were an absolute saviour

  • Avoid excessive food waste - kitsch food gifts like glazed donuts, strawberry towers, giant chocolate boxes, cookie hampers etc. My local nurses loved all the gifts, but every time another turned up, it put pressure on me to remove the waste from my home. 

  • Have a look in the cupboard, they may need the basics: tissues, toilet paper, milk, bread just to get them through the "visitor week"

 
 

 

 

ONGOING

  • Make an effort, or stop saying you will. One year later I still have people saying "we should catch up".

  • Share memories, I love texts from friends sharing small memories of Sebby

  • Remember the anniversary, and send another card

  • Bring food later - the wet food dries up after a few months

  • Let them decide when they are ready: "we will be at...tomorrow if you'd like to come", instead of "let me know if you want to catch up"

  • The visits stop, so continue to reach out after everyone else returns to "normal"

  • Just because they seem fine, they might not be fine, just be aware of this

I'd love to share more of the things that helped you too. Guidance in this space is always helpful, I will continue to write more on this topic as I think it's so important that we all learn from each other.  

 

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