Common Mistakes People Make When They Offer Condolences

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My special guest blogger today is Suzie Kolber, who is an expert in coming up with just the right words we can all use when we wish to offer words of sympathy to bereaved friends and work associates. Sometimes it can be a real challenge to say something other than a cliche or platitude, and so I know you’ll enjoy Suzie’s ideas for how we can be more supportive during those unsettling and precarious times everyone encounters in life.

Here’s her article:

Common Mistakes People Make When They Offer Condolences

Talking to someone who has just lost a loved one is never easy. In fact, many people avoid the situation by staying away or sending a generic card. They are afraid of saying the wrong thing. While there is no one right way to offer condolences, there are a few mistakes well-meaning people often make. Learn from others so you don’t make the same errors.

Saying “It will get better.”

While you know the person won’t always feel like they do right now, telling them so only trivializes their feelings. Instead, you want them to know it’s okay to feel this way. You have no idea how long it will take for their heart to mend and for them to feel like resuming life again.

In place of telling someone to cheer up or that they will feel better in time, you may say something like “I’m here for you if you need to talk.” This lets the person know they don’t have to pretend to feel better if they don’t.

Trying to cheer them up

Everyone moves through the stages of grief at their own pace, and you can’t hurry it along. If the person is feeling sad, they don’t necessarily want you trying to make the smile or laugh. They may not be ready to move forward with their daily lives because it feels like they are leaving the deceased person behind.

You don’t want to avoid talking about the person who passed away because it may actually make them feel better. Hearing stories about that person from your point of view may be the healing they need. And you might be surprised to find it does cheer them up. While you may not enjoy talking about sad things, forcing conversation on superficial topics because they are happy or neutral won’t ease the person’s pain or make them forget about their loved one.

Pretending nothing has changed

Many people feel awkward talking to the loved one of someone who died. They aren’t sure what to say, and so they try to avoid any mention of the person. They will talk about the weather, what’s going on at work or other normal stuff. While this may be helpful, don’t purposefully avoid talking about the person who died.

The family member knows they are gone, and they will feel the silence as you struggle to avoid mentioning the person. Instead, mention them as it feels normal. Talking about the person is one way the loved one has of keeping their memory alive. Don’t be afraid to talk about serious and sad subjects. Ignoring them won’t make them go away, and the discussion can help the person deal with their emotions.

Knowing the right thing to say can be difficult, but knowing what not to say can be even harder. Just know that if your heart is in the right place, the person will understand what you can’t find the words to say. Your presence means more than any words, so don’t avoid interaction with the family just because you aren’t sure what you should say to them.

Suzie Kolber is a writer at Words of Condolences



I Believe in You

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Have you ever wished for someone in your life who completely and unconditionally believed in you? Someone, who, no matter what bright idea you had or what you had done that wasn’t your best, always had your back? Always smiled and saw the “real” you who is capable of so much?

Most people never have that kind of relationship with anyone. We live in a society that rewards snide remarks and cutting comments with a laugh track on TV sitcoms. Where one-upping someone by being nasty, rude, or curt in return is considered an acceptable way to put people in their place and not let them walk all over you.

The person who comes to my mind as someone who always believed in me and thought I was just great no matter what I was up to over the years, was my Aunt Anne–my mother’s sister.  Now, Anne has been gone many years, but I have a wonderful memory bank overflowing with all the times she was supportive. I didn’t see her very often, because we never lived in the same state, let alone the same city, but despite the lack of e-mail and texting back then, we managed to have a very special relationship. Perhaps it was actually helped by that “distance” in that she wasn’t my parent, or someone so closely involved in my daily life that she couldn’t remain objective. Often we need that clear eye of someone who loves us, cares about us, wants us to be happy and healthy.

A specific incident with my aunt was many years ago, at my brother’s funeral. My family was living in Texas (where I was born) and she flew from Utah to be with us after he died. During the funeral mass, I happened to be standing next to her, on her left-hand side in the church pew. As if it was just moments ago, I can feel the pressure of my little hand in hers as I clung to her for strength.  Flash-forward at least 40 years, and she commented one time during a Thanksgiving dinner when several family members had gathered from various states to be together, and she said to me and my three older sisters that she recalled the funeral and that one of us had squeezed her hand so tight that she knew it was really important not to let go.  I admitted that hand-squeezer had been nine-year-old me.  She had been a lifeline for me during that hard time, and continued to be someone who believed in me completely, up until the moment of her own death many years later just before the turn of the century into 2000.

In case you don’t have someone like that in your own life–someone who never raises their voice, never criticizes, condemns, mocks or undermines you–I want you to know that I am here for you. I see greatness in you. I know that you came here with a huge purpose in your heart and soul: to create more love, joy, and expansion in the world by thinking up ideas and then bringing them into reality with the incredible power of your emotionalized thoughts.

with love,


PS By the way, a story I wrote about a different incident at my brother’s funeral is featured in the new anthology “Unwavering Strength: Stories to Inspire You Through Challenging Times.”  Don’t buy it now. Wait until Sept 30 for the launch so you’ll get a massive array of gifts from the co-authors and supporters of the project.

Sandy Hook Shooting Victims Memorial Tribute

In my opinion, serial killers get way too much attention in the press, while the victims’ names go unnoticed and remembered by only their immediate family and friends. Let’s change that by honoring those who lost their lives… and let’s rally around the victims and honor them, so that their deaths are not in vain. We can change how this society views and glorifies violence and spraying bullets, but we have to pull together to do this, and not slide into apathy or helplessness.

As Abraham-Hicks says, “Anything you are giving your attention to is an invitation to the essence of it.”  In this case, it means when we say “I want common sense gun rules, safe school environments for our children and help for the mentally ill, but it’ll never happen” — that is the same as saying, “Come to us, violence, fear and grief, even though we don’t want it!”

This post is a tribute to those who were murdered in the shooting spree on Friday December 15, 2012 on the campus of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The victims are 12 girls, 8 boys and 6 adult women. Police reported that they were shot up close, multiple times. Following is an alphabetical list (as released by police) of the victims:

Charlotte Bacon (girl) born Feb. 22, 2006

Daniel Barden (boy)born Sept. 25, 2005

Rachel Davino (woman) born July 17, 1983

Olivia Engel (girl) born July 18, 2006

Josephine Gay (girl) born Dec. 11, 2005

Ana M. Marquez-Greene (girl) born April 4, 2006

Dylan Hockley (boy) born March 8, 2006

Dawn Hochsprung (woman) born June 28, 1965

Madeleine F. Hsu (girl) born July 10, 2006

Catherine V. Hubbard (girl) born June 8, 2006

Chase Kowalski (boy) born Oct. 31, 2005

Jesse Lewis (boy) born June 30, 2006

James Mattioli (boy) born Mar. 22, 2006

Grace McDonnell (girl) born Dec. 4, 2005

Anne Marie Murphy (woman) born July 25, 1960

Emilie Parker (girl) born May 12, 2006

Jack Pinto (boy) born May 6, 2006

Noah Pozner (boy) born Nov. 20, 2006

Caroline Previdi (girl) born Sept. 7, 2006

Jessica Rekos  (girl) born May 10, 2006

Avielle Richman (girl) born Oct. 7, 2006

Lauren Rousseau (woman) born June, 1982

Mary Sherlach (woman) born Feb. 11, 1956

Victoria Soto (woman) born Nov. 4, 1985

Benjamin Wheeler (boy) born Sept. 12, 2006

Allison N. Wyatt (girl) born July 3, 2006

The list I found was one of raw stats — a name with the birth date and the word “male” or “female” after each name (example: 5/10/06, female). As I re-typed the information to bring these names into focus as boys and girls, and adult women who lived and breathed, and had plans for their lives, I sent out blessings for the comfort of each family, and the whole community to find peace and serenity.

with love and warmth,


4 Ways To Shift Your Story of Sadness and Tragedy

   Today you’ll probably be reading lots of posts, shares, comments and recaps of the 9/11 tragedy that took place eleven years ago in New York City. You’ll see lots of footage on news channels. You’ll hear friends and family reliving how horrified and upset they were that day. What’s really going on here? Are we honoring anyone’s memory when we live in fear of a date? When we dredge up every iota of sorrow, guilt, horror and pain? Actually, no. And that’s why I’m writing this post, to help you shift your perception of 9/11 as well as any other events in your life that produce ongoing grief.

read more

Recovering from the Stress of Losing a Pet

I recently came across this article, which had been copied (with an acknowledgment, as I’m doing) from UC Davis (University of California, in Davis) veterinary medicine web site, and I decided it was so helpful that I would use it at my blog. If you’ve ever lost a pet, or if you have an aging pet in your life now and you nervously anticipate losing them soon, you know the stress level can get very high, not only for you but the whole family.

I’ve lost several dogs over the years — two just last year — and I know how hard it is when you lose a companion animal.

Some people don’t seem to realize that it’s okay to go through the grieving process when your pet dies, and they hold the sorrow inside. That’s not a healthy reaction, and it can lead to prolonged sadness that erupts at odd times unrelated to pets at all.  I hope you enjoy the article, and that it offers comfort if you’ve had such a loss — feel free to share this with friends who might find it helpful.

to your happiness,

Evelyn Brooks

“Emotions: Loving Animals and Losing Them

For those of us who choose to share our lives with pets, at one time or another we will undoubtedly become emotionally attached to them. Even for people who share their lives with many animals, every so often an extra special one comes along.

When we must face the loss of an extraordinary animal companion, we may be shocked to find ourselves experiencing intense grief. It might even be worrisome to have such an overwhelming response to losing “just an animal.”

You need to realize this is NOT “just an animal.” This pet, for reasons perhaps known only to you, has managed to find a very special, unique place in your life and in your heart. Part of the sadness in losing such a pet is knowing that no other pet or person will ever fill that special place in quite the same way.

Reactions to Loss

First and foremost, GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to have a reaction, whatever it is. Know that grief can occur before, during and after the loss of a loved one. Grief also includes a wide range of reactions that are considered normal, such as feeling numb, irritability, crying spells, hallucinations, and feeling hopeless.

Every loss is unique and every person grieves differently – even when experiencing the loss of the same animal or person. It is normal for profound sadness and grief to last a few weeks to many months, lessening with time. Without proper care and attention, painful grief can last for years.

Recovery from Grief

If you have suffered painful losses before, you may know that no two losses are alike and losing loved ones does not get easier. If a loss of this magnitude is new to you, you may feel as though you will never get over it and that you will be suffering forever.

PEOPLE DO RECOVER from painful losses. The people who adjust to loss are those who experience their feelings about the loss and take one day at a time. Many eventually decide to bring another pet into their lives.

In every case, grief does not go away magically. Dealing with your loss and the passage of time are the two best healers.”


Guest: James Van Praagh on Loss

I am honored that I was selected to be one of only 30 sponsors giving an exclusive gift during his book launch — be sure to look for my gifts and let me know if you enjoyed them. For this special event, I created a brand new guided imagery meditation to help you heal from grief and loss. Whether you’re coping with the loss of a relationship or the death of a loved one, or the loss of your lifestyle in the economic downturn, you CAN feel better, and I’d really like to help.