First, say something. Anything. Acknowledge that you know the loss occurred.
Six months after my husband’s death, I finally came face to face with one neighbor I’d previously spoken with on a regular basis. I’d been hurt that neither spouse had spoken to me since that awful night. Deciding it was time to take the initiative for myself, the next time I saw one of them, I called out a friendly greeting.
“Hey, good morning!” You’d think I’d done something hideous, so flustered was my neighbor. Before the poor soul could recompose and skedaddle, I added, “I’m not sure if you heard about Bill …” (though I already knew that no one in the neighborhood had missed the ambulance coming and going that night).
My neighbor’s head bowed and nodded, as if in deep prayer, though the sheepish, muffled reply probably indicated shame rather than piety. In a few awkward sentences I learned that yes, they’d heard and yes, they were both very, very sorry. They’d wanted to come see me, but neither had known what to say so they’d actively avoided me (Ha! I was right!) so they wouldn’t face that discomfort. That was followed by a promise to come over “soon.”
Two and a half years later, they’ve yet to visit. Since that awkward talk, now they at least wave and return friendly “hellos” in passing, and I’m okay with that.
Second, tell the bereaved person HOW you’re thinking about him or her. Depending on your relationship to the one mourning the loss, here are some “starter ideas” you may wish to try:
- I’m keeping you in my prayers. (good)
- I’m keeping you in my prayers each time I pray. (better)
- I’m sending positive thoughts your way. (good)
- I’m sending positive thoughts your way each time I meditate [first thing every morning, every night before bedtime, etc.]. (better)
- I know you miss your [partner, parent, sibling, pet, …]. (good)
- I know you miss your [same as above]. If you’d like to talk about [same], I’d love to listen. (better)
The most important thing is to SAY SOMETHING to acknowledge the loss. If you haven’t done so yet, it’s not too late! A thoughtful expression of kindness is always welcome.