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Ask Rene: What Should I Say To My Neighbor?

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Ask Rene:
What Should I Say To My Neighbor? 

An acquaintance who attends my church lost her 9-year-old son in a car accident about five weeks ago (<—-Tweet this) . I don’t regularly attend church, so I just learned of the death. I feel awful because I’ve seen this acquaintance at the grocery store and we talked, but she didn’t mention losing her son. I just went on and on as if everything was great! I want to reach out to her and send my condolences, but I feel awkward about it.  Should I send a card at this point? Is there anything I can do?

Troubled in Tallahassee 

 

Dear Troubled:

I’m going to cut to the chase with one word: compassion. Think about what you would want someone to say if the situation were reversed. You would want to know that they knew about the tragedy, that they cared and that they’d want to help. So using that as a jumping off point, here’s what I would do if I were you.

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REACH OUT TO HER

Chris Campbell

Creative Commons/Chris Campbell

I know you said  you don’t know this woman well, but you don’t have to. Find out where she lives or her phone number then reach out. You can go by her house and bring a card if you wish, but more than that, ask what she needs and how you can help. Bring your compassion, open your heart and listen.

Read more:  Why Do People Lose Their Compassion Online?

APOLOGIZE

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What screws us up in life many times is that we worry about things like social convention (<—Tweet this). This is life and death; her child is gone so if I could be so bold, now is not the time to be overly concerned about life’s awkward moments. Give her a heartfelt apology; you can explain that you simply didn’t know what to say. I would even ask her what she would want to hear at a time like this. She may say nothing, she may cry, but I’m willing to bet that being honest will mean the world to her.

Read more: The GEM Debate: Can You Say Anything In The Name Of Comedy? (VIDEO)

BE THERE

Creative Commons/jackdaniels024

One of the things I recall from the death of my father, is that grief is an interesting thing (<—-Tweet this). It comes and goes like waves; sometimes small and manageable, other times quite large and intense. This woman may be riding those and everything in between. She might not have anyone to talk to; I mean, who knows? But being someone who will listen to her, even just sit with her as she cries, might help her through her grief.

Read more: Friends ‘Til The End.. Do You Have One Like This?
*********************************************************************************************************************************Please understand I’m not telling you that you need to be all things to her; she is just an acquaintance after all. But I just don’t think you can go wrong being honest and showing care and compassion.

Good luck!

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11 Comments

  1. Stacia

    July 23, 2013 at 7:50 am

    Excellent advice. When my family lost my brother many people avoided us because they didn’t know what to say. Sometimes the best thing to say is: “I don’t know what to say. But I care about you.” Usually, when we’ve lost someone we love we appreciate honesty (as you pointed out)…just sincerity and genuine friendship.

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