In addition to the story of healing in the book, there are nearly 100 pages
of ideas and helps to guide you in being more helpful and to inspire you to be more observant. "Two Long Walks" beginning on page 206 will also give you
What Can Be Done To Help? excerpted from page 277.
You may want to:
Go immediately to show your concern and LISTEN with your ears, eyes
and heart (actions speak loudly).
Consider taking a copy of this book to the family to guide them
in the decisions they will need to consider. Having the organized
information and checklists to work from during this confusing
time relieves an enormous amount of stress. It also allows the family to stay in control of the decision-making process instead of the funeral director. Mark page 229.
Always refer to the deceased by name.
Do what you can to be sure those surviving eat regularly and are
taking vitamins (they are likely experiencing significant stress).
Take toilet paper, stress vitamins and tissues to the house (all
are used much faster than normal). Quietly leave them with an
attached note: "Just in case you use these as fast as we do when
there's a group around."
Take food, in reusable or disposable containers — or be sure your
name and phone number are on the bottom side of the dish. (Remember, there is special thoughtfulness
in a note taped to the bottom of a plate that needs to be returned
to you: "I will drop by in a few days for a visit. Just save this
dish for me.") Then stop over for a visit in a few days after
everyone has left; you will be most appreciated.
Go to services and after-service events. (This is far more important
than many people realize.)
Make a donation to the suggested charity or one of your own preference.
(The charity will send the family an acknowledgment of the gift.)
Whenever you are with family members, mention a fond experience
or recollection you have of the deceased (USE the deceased
person's name). Then invite the person you are listening to,
in a gentle way, to share a favorite memory. This thoughtfulness
can be incredibly helpful throughout the grief process and for
years to come.
Organize a support network for food, "a night out" or "visitors"
to help survivors over the coming months.
Mark the deceased's birthday, wedding and death anniversary dates
on your calendar and send a memorial donation or a card in subsequent
years to family members on those dates. This is a deeply appreciated and thoughtful gesture.
If you are concerned with what not to say, consider avoiding giving
advice on either how the family should grieve or on why such tragedies
occur. The family will appreciate knowing about your feelings,
not what you think.
Write out the story of your favorite memories of the deceased
and give it to the family. This is good for you and a precious
gift to them.
are nearly 100 more pages of helpful information and suggestions in the resource
section in Grief: Climb Toward Understanding. Some of the same
assistance is found in Phyllis's other books.
Helping Co-workers, Church, Synagogue, Mosque or organization members
(This letter holds wise suggestions for
... excerpted from page 282 in Grief: Climb Toward
This is a letter sent by previously bereaved individuals to associates
of a newly bereaved faculty and staff member at California Polytechnic
State University. It has been included to possibly serve as a model
for other businesses or institutions. The [ ] indicates that a name,
date or pronoun change will help you personalize this letter.
To our colleagues:
[Jane and Joe __________'s ][daughter] [Anne] died on [Wednesday]
What you say to [Joe] in the next days, weeks, and months will
make a difference. We who have also lost our children
would like to offer a few suggestions about what you might say
and do, because most people aren't quite sure what
to say at times like this.
The loss of a loved one, especially a child, is one of the most
devastating events that can happen to a person. It is quite different
from other, more expected, deaths such as parents or grandparents.
When someone suffers the intense grief of a child's death, you
will naturally want to avoid doing or saying "the wrong thing."But please don't let your cautiousness
lead to doing or saying nothing at all!
Seek out your colleague. Avoiding [Joe] will cause more pain
to someone already deeply anguished. In the hall, passing the
office, at the supermarket: talk to [him]. Don't pretend that
nothing has happened. Don't avoid [him]. Be sure to acknowledge
both [Joe] and the loss of [his] child, [Anne].
If you don't know what to say, simply say "I'm sorry." The words
are not important, but convey a sense that you know and care.
Mention [Anne's] name. In fact, look for reasons to say [her]
name — now, a month from now, a year, even ten years from now.
[Joe] will want to know that others remember and care that [his]
[daughter] [Anne] is no longer alive. [Joe] may want to talk about
[his] [daughter]; talking is one of the ways of keeping the memory
of [his] child alive. Your silence may convince [Joe] that you
do not want [him] to mention [Anne's] name. Your words (and especially your
ears) can be a precious gift to him in keeping [his] [daughter's]
Welcome tears — yours and the family's. Your tears are appropriate
and appreciated. They speak your concern with silent and deeply
felt eloquence. Many men fear their tears, but the parent seeing
tears will receive them as a gift. Also, [Joe] needs to cry sometimes
alone, sometimes with others. If your words cause tears, you bring
comfort rather than distress. Don't expect this to sound logical;
logic is irrelevant at times like this. [Joe] will want to cry
at times, and the tears will feel good. Don't deny [him] that
Don't be afraid to intrude. Most of us are hesitant to go where
we fear we might not be welcome — home or office. Stop by the
house. Be helpful. There may not be much you can say, but there
is much you can do. Errands need to be run, food arranged, people
contacted, and maybe even the lawn mowed. [Joe and Jane] will
not be in a frame of mind to ask your help. Just try to figure
out what might need doing, then either do it or talk it over with
someone who seems on top of things right then.
Avoid saying "I know how you feel." You don't. You can't. Even
those of us who have gone through similar tragedies can't know
what this death feels like to another person. It is often helpful
to share briefly what's happened to you; just don't assume it
will apply to your colleague. Your greatest gift is to LISTEN.
Don't provide a "silver lining." It won't help to try to "put
things in perspective" for your colleague. Yes, it could be worse:
more people could have died or dying quickly might be better than
dying slowly. But "it-could-have-been-worse" will not be received
as a condolence. Nor will pushing your religious views help. Hearing
that it's "God's will" seldom comforts. If you are concerned with
what not to say, consider avoiding giving advice on either how
the family should grieve or on why such tragedies occur. The family
will want to know what you FEEL, NOT what you THINK.
Be there. Your willingness to listen can be a profound expression
of friendship. Encourage [Joe] to talk about details of [his]
[daughter] [Anne's] life. It's part of the healing. Don't try
to protect your colleague, but be sensitive and simply accept
what [he] feels or needs at that point. [He] would probably prefer
to tell you what is off limits or uncomfortable than feel denied
the chance to talk about what lies so heavily on his heart.
Those who grieve are shaken by powerful feelings. They need
to know that those near them still care.
Remember [Jane], [his wife]. [She] has an unusual and difficult
burden right now.
Finally, call any of us if you have questions. We want to help,
Joyce and Ken John
Note: A special thank you to Joyce, Ken, and
John (as we remember Laura and Maurie) for the help they have given
to other bereaved parents and for their allowing the use of this
letter in Grief: Climb Toward Understanding.
The following are portions of two letters received by the author
in one week and used here with permission:
Right now your book is a life-line for me. Thank you for making
me feel a little less alone after the sudden and unexpected death
of our son Zachary. How could it be? How could all MY feelings
be on the pages of Grief: Climb Toward Understanding
? Those were
MY feelings, MY emotions and they were so deep in MY soul.
How could you know?
"Last spring when my husband was going to have surgery, Mrs. Davies,
your unusual and wonderful book called to me with its beautiful cover. I enjoyed reading your vignette story and by the time Bill was in the recovery room, I had explored the amazing and helpful 100-page resource section.
"As he awakened from the anesthetic, I quietly read some of your healing words, especially "My Stream," and others in the chapters Perspective and Refocus, thinking they might help him shift his attitude about the changes in life he was facing.
"Later when he was fully awake, I began reading to him the adventure you relate of your adjustment to loss and the reframing process you share in those powerful short pieces of wisdom. Even in pain, Derek and your story held Bill's attention.
"In those first days we reread his favorite sections and talked. He decided living each day as fully as possible was more important than how long one lives. Living with awareness and being loving to those around him began to bring Bill the joy and peacefulness he had searched for and missed in so many ways, much of his life.
"As we watched death come far more quickly than we had expected, I began to really get familiar with the 'To Do' sections. Bill went over all the questions in Important Information (to give and get NOW), Life-Support Systems Instructions, A Letter to My Physician. I checked the www.sunnybank.com internet site and found "My letter to Family and Friends." I hope you'll include it in future editions of your book. He used the idea. Bill enjoyed sharing, and I wrote his words. **
"His life memories in that letter are his last loving gift to me and our children.
"Your book has been a very important tool in my life. But even more important, I believe your precious story gave Bill the life he had missed in all his years of living.
my deepest appreciation,"
** "I do hope you'll include "My letter to Family and Friends' in future editions of your book."
We are following Jan's suggestion
and you will find the letter she requested 'My
letter to Family and Friends' on this site www.sunnybank.com.
We welcome your suggestions, also.
Please write us at
P.O. Box 945
San Luis Obispo, CA 93406