"Soulful Gifts to Lift The Spirit"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When is it Not Appropriate to Give a Sympathy Gift?


There is NEVER an excuse to not acknowledge the death of a loved one with someone you know, whether it's a human or a pet.

I wonder how many friendships/relationships get scarred or end because of someone's careless disregard for the feelings of someone who is grieving?

Death is hard on everyone, even if you've never been through it personally. But one day, unfortunately, you will experience the death of a friend or a loved one because that's just part of life. Knowing that doesn't make it any easier; that's just the way it is.

You may not know what to say to the person who is hurting, so you say nothing. This is as bad as saying something totally inappropriate while trying to make the bereaved feel better. You can be so choked up inside, so afraid that you will burst out crying because you, too, miss the wonderful soul who is now gone, feel so much for the person who is grieving, so worried about what to say, but all that is needed is something as simple as "I am so sorry for your loss." Period. Even if you can't bring yourself to actually verbalize those words, a simple sympathy card or short handwritten note by you will more than suffice.

Our economy has affected so many of us on so many levels. I've personally walked around with only one dollar in my wallet for a month. On more than one occasion. Money's tight, no doubt about it. But gift-giving CAN be free.

A really great gift that doesn't cost a dime is the gift of listening. Write a note, send a sympathy card, and offer the gift of your time to sit and listen to your friend or loved one just talk. A "I know you are hurting. I am here for you" goes a long, long way. Trust me on this. This person may never take you up on your offer, but they will certainly remember the kindness you extended. If they do take you up on your offer, you can be sure that one day when you're in your time of need, they will return the favor. You will want someone on your side who has "been there."

The gift of listening should have no expiration date. The first year is the worst as the person who is grieving is reliving all the "anniversaries" and remembering what was happening at that certain time of the year the previous year. Losing a loved one can take years to get over, and some of us never get over our losses. We do, however, learn to get "around" our losses. Please be patient, kind, and compassionate in the meantime.

My mother was the most important person in my life. She was my best friend. 22 years later, and I miss her dearly. I was so attached to her that I feared her death from before I was five years old. Relatives told me it was because we were separated once when I went into the hospital as a baby to recover from the croup. For as long as I could remember, I dreaded the day my mother would leave me. My mother died soon after my 25th birthday. It was THE worst time of my life.

One year, on one of the anniversaries of my mother's death, I was quiet and sad. What was wrong with me, my then-boyfriend wanted to know. So I told him. The worst response in the world he could have ever said was, "She's dead. So what? Get over it!" In total disbelief, I didn't know how to respond because I'm not the type of person who will retaliate with "I can't wait for YOUR mother to die so you can know what it feels like." Instead I said, "Well, I see this is another topic we can't discuss," and proceeded to "file" that moment away in my head. Of course the file cabinet in my head got full -- with that being the first clear, defined moment I knew I couldn't trust this person with my whole heart -- that eventually the relationship ended. Yes, I received an apology. But too late. The damage was done. Forever.

Another point in my adult life after losing my dogs Tasha and Niki, I was talking on the telephone about my devastation with a long-time friend of mine. Because she had no point of reference and had never known the unconditional love of a pet, I guess the conversation got too uncomfortable for her -- it didn't seem to matter that it was my heart that had been ripped into a million pieces -- and she callously said, "Can we change the subject?" and went on to whatever was more important for her.

Yep, I've known some real "gems" in my life, but I embrace the lessons I learned from them, the scars I received, and now embrace the person I am because of them.

Giving a gift doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Giving a gift of the heart is so rewarding, is memorable, and is absolutely free. Never forget there is someone you know who needs you during their time of loss but might be too proud to ask. They shouldn't have to ask. Just reach out and let them know you care.

1 comment:

codyrachel's irises said...

oh my heavens - what a beautiful and heart rendering post!! I so very much agree with you that the smallest whispered I'm sorry goes such a long way and is so important as a friend of any level, close to just beginning a friendship, that you make sure you extend your sympathies!
Losing your Mom at such a young age and preparing for that loss at such an earlier age, my God, tears welled up - I'd love to just hug you !!Someone did that for me just recently a stranger & it was wonderful! my Mom is also my best friend I feel so blessed to have her still in my life she's 84 years young bless her - reading your very heartfelt post brought a feeling of closeness to you and reminded me of how very lucky I am!
Also pets -- how quickly and easy to lose our hearts to a pet again your compassion shines through--bless you and thank you-
kathleen