Recently I found myself uncomfortably tongue tied when I ran into an old friend I hadn't seen in a while - since her husband's funeral two years ago. I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to 'bring it up' and upset her , yet I didn't want to seem uncaring. I ended up mumbling something and turning away - yikes!
I knew that over the Holidays I would be seeing several loved ones that were either dealing with a serious illness or had lost a loved one within the last several years. I wanted to be appropriate with compassion, so I did some research. I talked with friends and read the book Option B by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook). Sheryl's husband died suddenly five years ago, and she wrote this book for people who have suffered loss of any kind, and the tag line is: Option A is not available, so let's just kick the shit out of option B.
The most powerful part of the book for me was when Sandberg wrote "You can't remind me that Dave died. If you walk up to me and say, 'hey so sorry for your loss' I don't think, 'oh I forgot!' and even five years later at Christmas or the New Year, no one thinks 'oh I forgot my husband died'."
The appropriate words of compassion Sandberg recommends is 'how are you today?' - which acknowledges that the person inquiring realizes you are doing the best you can each moment of each day. Sheryl also encourages people to simply talk to those they know are suffering. STOP THE SILENCE! Talk to me again! she pleads.
The friends I chatted with agreed with Sandberg's suggestions, and also want loved ones to treat them the way they did before the death, illness or incident - but with a compassionate ear to what they may be asking for today - moment by moment.
I hope this was helpful and if you have other ideas please comment on our Facebook page.
Wishing you a Blessed day!