One of the hardest things we ever have to do as members of the human family is say goodbye at the end of life. We all have two events in common with the rest of our brothers and sisters out there--birth and death. Whatever part of the world you are from, whatever your culture, the death of a friend or loved one is often one of the most difficult things you will ever experience.
So how can you express your condolences? The most common way, of course, is a sympathy card. Cards are always appropriate and greeting companies offer a large selection from which to choose. Some double as an envelope to include a cash or check as a donation.
Another common gift is a flower arrangement or plant. A plant can be a great way to give a gift that will last. I still have a plant given to me by a friend after my motherís death. Every time I look at it, I think of her.
Some grieving families set up a charities, scholarships at universities, or a college fund for any surviving children. This choice will usually be specified in the obituary column.
I lost my mother three years ago. Her death was very sudden and unexpected. One of the best gifts my family received after she died was home cooked meals brought to us by friends from my parentsí church. Each day for two weeks, we had delicious meals to share as we discussed our plans around the dinner table. With so many grief stricken people gathered in one place, a huge weight was lifted from our shoulders when we didnít have to worry about cooking dinner.
So what do you say to someone who has lost that special person in their life? If you are like me, anything beyond--I'm sorry for your loss-- is as much as we can manage. I guess most of us are afraid to burden or hurt the person suffering. The best advice that I can offer is to be honest with your grieving friend or loved one. If you are unsure how to help them, ask what they want or need. Let them know that you care about them and are willing to help them in any way that you can. They will tell you and will probably be grateful for your efforts.
While the grief was beyond description after my motherís death, I found comfort in those friends who came by to talk about her life. We got out the pictures and talked about the memories from each photo. Our friends told tales of some unknown or long forgotten tidbit. We were able to laugh at some of these stories which helped to ease a little of our burden. A smile managed to find its way to my mouth if only for a few seconds. Each friend then shared with us how much Mom had meant to them. Although those days were difficult, I now have other memories to cherish thanks to our friends.