Those of us coping with loss could use  lessons in self-defense. Not to fight off muggers, but comments from people who may (or may not) mean well. The common, ”You’ll get over it” – usually accompanied by, ”“It just takes time” – is insulting. (Do you have a timetable for me?) Widows, and anyone struggling with the end of an affair, often have to endure the promise that they’ll “meet someone else.” That’s akin to telling women mourning a miscarriage or stillbirth, “You’ll have other children.” As though we’re looking for stand-in’s. for the one we lost.

The reality is that the majority of people don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving. We ourselves often stumble when we’re the ones offering sympathy. When my sister also became a widow I told her,“I know how you feel.” She shot back:“The hell you do.!” Her response was rude but accurate, for even in blood relationships grieving is doesn’t come iin cookie-cutter style. When I’m subjected to that “know how you feel” remark I try to conserve my energy and imply say, “Thanks, but each of us is different.”

Of course there are remarks there’s really no answer to. When my grandmother died a callous cousin scoffed at my tears.“She was an old lady,” he said. Sometimes we should just walk away and let our silence speak for us.

Silence may also express something else. After my husband died one of our friends seemed to have misplaced my phone number. When I summoned courage to tell her that I wished she’d call more often she said: “Frankly I can’t deal with your pain.”

That’s really where it’s at. People fear that if your husband (sibling, child, partner) can die, so can theirs – – and it also brings up fears of their own mortality..

So what can we do to protect ourselves? For starters we can jettison any “make nice” belief and refuse to accept thoughtless remarks thrown at us. We also need to realize most people aren’t speaking from malice, but ignorance. The standard, “I’m sorry for your loss,” my sound like a cliche, but it’s sometimes the safest choice.

The brighter side of this picture is that there are some thoughtful people who understand what would genuinely help us. Even if we pride ourselves on being ”strong” and independent ,we can benefit from learning to accept offers such as “I’m going ti the store, can I pick up anything for you?” A harassed mother told me the most welcome words she’s heard were,”Would you like me to watch the kids today so you can have some time to yourself ?”

Interestingl that these two offers were expressed as questions: What would YOU like? Giving us a choice.  For whatever words come our way, what’s key are respect for our feelings – and allowing space for them.

(What has YOUR experience been? Share – and the most interesting will be posted here.)

Relevant books: “WIDOW’S WALK”– available through; “TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW”; ”COME AND GO”– Also available through Amazon Kindle.


Dear Readers,

I’m grateful to all of you who have been responding to my blogs for ten years, and I welcome my newer readers. Your enthusiasm has meant a great deal to me.

This isn’t a preface to parting, just a change in purpose. As you know, my posts have been labelled “A Writer’s Blog ” and “Surviving Loss.” I’m now deleting the first category in the belief there’s a surfeit of advice about writing. On the other hand, I have an abundance of personal experience to offer to those coping with the inevitable losses we all face. I’ve lost my husband to cancer, my partner to Alzheimer’s, and – more recently – my sister to a variety of lung diseases. I have also written three books about caregiving and the need to make a new life afterward. So I’m well tutored in the exercise of picking up the pieces.

From now on my blogs will be designed solely to help others contending with loss. They will include candid advice from my own experience, as well as interviews with other survivors, recommendations about useful books and podcasts, medical news and whatever seems additionally useful.

However, loss is a large umbrella. It doesn’t solely pertain to death. Loss can also mean divorce, the breakup of an affair or friendship, estrangement from your child or other family member. It can also mean the loss of your job, your home, or anything else that gives you some security in this uncertain world . One reader told me she mourns the loss of youth!

The blogs will continue to be titled (I’m addicted to puns.) To continue receiving them (no fee) send your name and Email or text address to me – Let me know what you would find helpful. I promise to reply to every communication.

I look forward to hearing from you and to continuing a meaningful relationship.

Best wishes,