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In times of sadness

During the last two weeks, two of my closest girlfriends have lost a parent. Both Barbara’s mom and Vivian’s father were around 90 years old and had lived a long and happy life.

Still, it does not make it any easier to lose a parent.

So what do you do as a friend, when one of your friends has a death in the family? Many people don’t know what to do. They feel uncomfortable. They don’t know what to say. So, often times they stay away from their grieving friends.

That’s not what I do. And let me share with you why.

A few years ago, an industry colleague (Mike) lost his 17-year-old daughter in a tragic car accident. I sent a sympathy card right away. And then I saw him at an industry trade show a few months later.

The first thing I said to him was that I hoped he got my card and that I was so sorry to hear about his daughter. But I was sure he really didn’t want to talk about it. He said to me, “Actually I do want to talk about it – it helps me. You’re one of the first people who asked.”

That was a big lesson to me. Many people who are grieving do find it helpful to talk about it. And for them, I’m sure it’s better than feeling your friends are all avoiding you.

So, what did I do for my two friends?

For Barbara, who lives in northern California, I offered to help find a place to hold a luncheon following the funeral. A simple call to a restaurant and printing directions. Barbara felt the love.

For Vivian, we decided to go have lunch on Sunday afternoon – just the two of us – and it allowed her to tell me all about her last days with her father (who I knew) and to shed a few tears.

That’s what friends are for.

Some of us are also touched by close friends and family members who have burdensome health issues. Maybe you feel like it’s too personal to ask them about their condition or prognosis. You might be sure that they are too busy to receive your phone call or a visit.

My long time friend Barbie was diagnosed with a brain tumor last week. Instead of staying away, I checked with her husband and stopped by to bring her a card and bright beautiful sunflowers to brighten her room. I maybe stayed 10 minutes. I took another mutual friend over to visit her again before her surgery and she was so happy to have a visitor and a hug (even for just 5 minutes).

Don’t underestimate the power of human contact. A hug. A bright smile. A text message, email or phone call. All of these things can be critical in the recovery of those who are ill or are grieving.

So next time you have the opportunity to brighten someone’s day with a visit – take advantage of that opportunity! You won’t regret it. And quite possibly you could give them a special gift.



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