Relationships

How to Write a Condolence Note

condolence-note-how-to-write

This past spring, as I’ve spoken about, my brother-in-law Paul died of lung cancer. My sister, Lucy, was flooded with condolence cards and flowers. “I loved every single card,” she said, “Just getting a card felt so good.” Yet a few things stuck out as especially touching. We spoke on the phone this week, and she shared what she has learned…


Snail mail a card. Every email, phone call, everything was wonderful; I was astounded by how kind people were. Physical cards were especially nice to hold onto. I didn’t care at all what the card looked like. I have them in a basket in our living room and see them every day.

Describe how you can help. I was so grateful when people said, “Let us know if there’s anything we can do.” But when people offered specifics, it felt even easier for me to take them up on their offers. One friend wrote, “If you ever want to come over, we can grill and make grapefruit mojitos; we’d love to see you and there’s nothing we wouldn’t do for you.”

Tell stories. I loved when people wrote specific stories about Paul that I’d never heard, and told me how he had impacted them, what they loved about him, positive things they observed about our relationship. I personally think, the more detail, the better. The grieving person is thinking about the person 100% of the time; nothing you say is going to make her sadder; instead, the stories you tell are going to make her feel connected.

Literally nothing is too cheesy to write. Whatever emotion you’re feeling, it’s probably helpful to say. My friend Kimmy, who lives in Sweden, wrote, “I’m sending you love from across the ocean, as you swim through yours.” Another friend wrote: “When your grief feels dark and bottomless, know that we are here to reflect Paul’s light and love back to you, whether it’s next month, next year or in ten years.” If there is something that you think sounds pretty, go for it. They aren’t analyzing what you say — they just feel so raw.

And there is nothing too great you can say about the person. One friend wrote, “I last saw you both at a friend’s wedding; you were gorgeous, and Paul was strong, confident and deeply happy. The awe I felt for him, you, both of you was astounding, and it has only ever grown.” I was blown away. You’re so starved for remembering and thinking you’ve lost something so great, when you hear something positive, it’s affirming and validating. You realize that people get what he meant to you. They understand, they think it’s important too. Your love is not lost in the world.

Of course, you don’t have to be sentimental. One friend wrote, “THIS SUCKS,” and that felt great, too.

Consider involving kids. I liked when kids drew a picture of Paul and me. Sometimes they drew a random picture and that was sweet, too. One note said, “Dear Lucy, You’re sad. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I said a prayer for you last night. I’m Molly’s son. Love, Finn.” And then he drew a four-leaf clover. One girl wrote “Sick, Happy, Dr. Paul” and then crossed out the word sick. That was before he died. Her mom was like, I guess she decided she didn’t want him to be sick! It felt so poignant.

How to Write a Condolence Note

A drawing from a friend’s daughter. “VM” stands for “very much.”

Say you’ll never forget him or her. I like hearing that people will miss him. Someone sent me flowers and said, “Thinking of you; we miss Paul dearly,” and that meant a lot. A nurse who worked with him wrote, “We cherish the moments we spent with Paul in the operating room; he will never be forgotten.” Even though she’s a stranger to me, it’s really comforting to know that a nurse out there will never forget him either.

Write, even if you’re an acquaintance. A couple of people I didn’t know well still wrote to me (old friends of Paul’s, or the artist who illustrated Paul’s New York Times essay). It meant so much. You don’t have to be a close friend to write.

Reach out anytime. A few friends texted or sent flowers on the one-month anniversary of his death. Others sent a note a couple months later. They said, “We’re thinking of you,” and that was nice. You are not better two months later. I can imagine it would feel good to receive flowers six months later, a year later.

lucy-paul

A photo of Lucy and Paul last Christmas.


Thank you so much, Lucy.

I hope this is helpful. Recently I came across this beautiful quote: “When a person is bereaved, the simple, sincere expressions of sympathy you write are deeply felt and appreciated. At this time of withdrawal from the world, your letter can be a warm and understanding handclasp.”

Lots of love to you all. xoxo

P.S. A trick to life, and the power of empathy.

(Top photo by Our Food Stories.)

  1. Well thought out, great tips. Thank you!

  2. savannah says...

    Lucy you are in this stranger’s thoughts still. I am a chemo nurse and your husbands thoughts on mortality influence how I interact with my patients. Your thoughts on what to write have given me good guidance. Thank you.

  3. Jami says...

    Thank you so very much for this post. When my dad died very suddenly and tragically a year ago, I felt like many of my friends and colleagues were afraid to be authentic with me as if it would trigger me into a “mess” they wouldn’t be able to handle. Perhaps it was because we are all still in our twenties and less experienced with loss. I found myself wishing everyone would be more raw and real I think this is really beautiful advice.

  4. AT says...

    Joanna, what you are doing is important. There have been several posts like this that snap me out of the daily haze and truly make me a better, more well rounded person. Thank you so much for this.

  5. Lots of love to you and Lucy and all of your loved ones. This was simply lovely, and a good reminder of how the smallest gestures can make the biggest differences. xo.

  6. Erika says...

    This post brought out a good cry that’s been laying just under the surface. September 18 marks the one-year anniversary of my cousin’s passing from cancer, and I have given it much thought. My family is extremely close, and there is so much I want to say to my aunt and uncle as well as her sweet husband and beautiful boys, yet somehow nothing I put down on paper seems “enough.” I haven’t yet been able to articulate words I feel are truly reflective of her memory or embody the incredible person she was. With your sister’s insight though, I suddenly feel less pressure to choose the right words but to instead honor her spirit in the way that feels the most authentic to me. By telling them how much she meant to me, how often I think of them, and how deeply her life will forever impact mine.

  7. I love this post so much. Thank you for sharing.

    And I think a lot of this advice can be used for loved ones who are sick as well. My mother was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer recently and I was so surprised at the number of cards people sent – multiple cards too! Once a week, my husband’s grandmother sends my mother a card just writing, “thinking and praying for you”. It’s such a boost for my mother’s spirit to be reminded that people are supporting her.

  8. Erin says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is beautiful and helpful and true. Thank you for all the ways you have shared grace with us amid a time of much loss. Wishing your whole family every blessing!

  9. Rebekka says...

    Thank you so much for posting this, Joanna. Love to you, Lucy, from Germany. I’m touched by your honesty.

  10. Madie says...

    I’m so glad you posted this. It is immensely helpful, and honestly one of the best, most worthwhile things I have read on the internet in ages. Hugs.

  11. melissa says...

    This is so helpful. Thank you Lucy, for being so open and generous with your experience. He sure left you with the most beautiful gift, your daughter. Hugs to you all.

    xoxo
    Melissa

  12. I’m thankful for you taking the time to write these messages. I’ve had several condolence notes to send in the past few weeks, and this validates the written word and its importance in our busy lives.

  13. This is all so touching; astoundingly so. And how very beautiful it is that Lucy knows such full and transcending love; with Paul, with their child, and with the expansive connection of people around her. Sending waves of peace…

  14. We don’t talk about it enough in our society and are often left wondering what to do. This is so helpful. Thank you so much!

  15. ABBY says...

    This is spot on. Everything your sister mentioned rings true for our grieving. It’s funny how we all think that speaking about the person who passed will cause the person left behind more pain or remind them of their loss, but it isn’t — they’re always thinking about the person.

  16. Jill says...

    I loved the poem read at my Gran’s funeral last month, “Death is Nothing At All” by Henry Scott Holland. It’s so raw and beautiful, whether you’re religious or not, it’s relevant.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “Death is nothing at all.
    I have only slipped away to the next room.
    I am I and you are you.
    Whatever we were to each other,
    That, we still are…”

  17. I lost my Mom to brain cancer last year, when I was 6 weeks pregnant through our 2nd ivf. Holding this girl in my arms now and wishing nothing more than to have my Mom with me. I agree, we don’t want our loved one forgotten. So many people are afraid they won’t say the right thing, so they say nothing at all.

  18. Ann says...

    Thank you, Joanna (and Lucy). I find condolence letters difficult to write and this post is tremendously helpful and a good reminder to just put your heart out there and say something. Really appreciate your thoughtfulness on such a tender subject for you and your family. xoox

  19. Karen T. says...

    Oh my God, Jo. This is why I read your blog everyday. Thank you for this. And sending lots of love to your sis and family.

  20. Hi lovely. I’m sad to read this post and send me love to you all. My fiancé died suddenly last year and not many people – including me – knew what to do or say. This is spot on xx

    • I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope you’ve found comfort from your friends and family, and I hope that his memory will always be a blessing to you.

  21. K says...

    Thank you so much for this post. I recently lost my dad, and found myself surprised by how much the condolence notes meant to me, even when they were from people I wasn’t that close to or didn’t know my dad. In these situations, many people just don’t know how to act. I had some close friends who barely reached out at all and other acquaintances who sent truly touching notes. I don’t blame people for not knowing how to act, but I wish everyone could read this post because small things like this can really make a difference. Human connection is something I really craved after my father’s death. My heart aches for Lucy and her family, but I am also inspired by her strength. I actually work in healthcare in the Bay Area so have heard a lot of Paul’s story and it is quite incredible. I hope you will share information on his book when it comes out.

  22. Jaclyn says...

    Thank you to Lucy for being so generous with your wisdom about such a personal issue.
    My neighbor passed away this past Friday after suffering brain cancer for 3 years. We didn’t know them (no animosity, it’s just my neighborhood tends to follow the stick to your own rule) but the overwhelming outpouring of support that I’ve seen their friends and family providing has been awe-inspiring.
    At any given time day or night for the last month while she was still alive no less than 10 cars could be found parked outside their home and now that she has passed on, every day since Friday it’s been a total traffic jam on my street with friends and family coming to support her husband and teenage son. As a neighbor who has never spoken to them before I didn’t know how to approach them at this time so instead I readily offer their guests to park in my driveway or in front of my property.

    After reading this though, I think I’ll wait a bit and then send a card over offering my condolences and one anecdote about a time I heard my neighbor and her son laughing so loud together while cooking dinner in their kitchen. It caught my attention at the time as I overheard it from the yard and I’ve thought it often since then. It showed such genuine love and joy between a mother and her teenage son.

  23. Thank you so much for this post, Joanna. Not looking forward to the day I’ll have to put it to use, but I know I’ll be keeping all of these tips in mind.

    Danielle | D is for Dreamer

  24. Thank you so much for this beautiful post, Lucy and Joanna. My best friend since age 2 lost her beloved mom nearly six months ago and witnessing her grief (especially others’ response to it) has been such an eye opener. From what I can tell, the most important thing is to say or do SOMETHING.

    Many people (understandably!) worry about saying or doing the “wrong” thing, worry about “reminding” her of her loss, etc. but as Lucy said—she is thinking about her mom all of the time and when people pretend like nothing ever happened, she feels like her mom has been forgotten.

    Something Sheryl Sandberg said after the loss of her husband really resonates with me—asking “How are you today?” instead of “How are you?” acknowledges that grief is not linear, and that today feels different than yesterday and it will likely feel different from tomorrow.

    I can’t thank you enough for this post. Navigating loss is such sensitive business and I am learning each day how to be there for my friend. You’ve inspired me to send flowers for the sixth month anniversary.

  25. Heidi says...

    I lost my mom 8 years ago, just after I turned 20. Just the other day someone noticed an expression I made and it reminded them of her. I loved that they noticed and said something. I’m so cautious not to talk about her “too much” because for some reason I feel it will make others uncomfortable. So I love when others bring it up, because I feel the freedom to share memories. These tips resonated with me SO much, especially “Tell stories”. And it’s true, they still mean so much, especially years later when the pain of grieving is not the same and I’m living a new normal – I want to keep the memories alive however I can.

  26. Kate says...

    I was so struck by the image of the basket of cards in Lucy’s home. How beautiful and comforting to have that tangible reminder of Paul and everyone who loves him. And how special it will be for their daughter to see and read and touch those memories of her father.

  27. I remember my mother would always (and still does) send condolence cards a few weeks or even a month after the fact. Everything is such a whirlwind when a loved one passes away (funeral arrangements, family & friends in town, etc.) that I imagine it is special to know someone is still thinking of you months later when everyone else has gone about their lives but yours will never be the same.

  28. this is insanely beautiful. Thank you for sharing. What a thoughtful way to start the morning .

  29. Ashlee says...

    This made me misty eyed sitting at my desk. So poignant and beautiful. Also can I just say it’s crazy that it feels like it was written by you Joanna? You and your sister definitely share a similar written voice! Twins :)

  30. Ivy says...

    I just learned that the head teacher in my son’s day care class, whom I believed was just coming back from a normal maternity leave, lost her baby son at birth. This advice is so helpful, because I don’t know her well yet (my son wasn’t in her class yet when she went out on leave), and I want to express my condolences to her. I plan to follow this beautiful, kind advice. Thank you for sharing, and my condolences to you and your family.

  31. Stephanie says...

    This is such an interesting post. Thanks for the tips. The art of letter writing has been totally lost for the most part, but I think this is one of those instances when having something handwritten can really make a difference.

    I’m a fashion blogger in NYC. To follow my adventures featuring the best of NYC’s fashion and food, check out sustenanceandstyle.com. Always looking to collaborate with new bloggers, so contact me! See you there xx

    – Stephanie

  32. Louise says...

    This testemony is so moving. It’s so beautiful how you and Lucy can describe in words what really happens in this process. I lost me father in December, he was sick, but you never expect death. And the feeling of loss never goes away. You learn to live a life where that person doesn’t exists anymore and that’s hard. Really hard. Thank you for sharing this with us. I’m sure that all our love ones will never be forgotten.

  33. J.D says...

    I’m tearing up at my desk. Thank you both for sharing this. I’m one of these people who never know what to say, so this is very helpful. Death SUCKS.

  34. Ana says...

    Thank you for sharing this… For sure these are difficult times and the fact you take this time to share this wisdom with the world is very touching. I never know what to say and how to react… I’ll definitely follow Lucy’s tips! I am a postcard person in general and now felt so much like sending Lucy some words. It’s lovely to see someone transform pain in such a beautiful way.

  35. Katie says...

    This post was so deeply moving and beautifully compiled. So many inspiring reminders for those of us who want to be helpful and connect in times of grief, but aren’t sure how to do it. When in doubt, reach out, is what I am realizing. Thank you for posting this and thanks to your sister for being so open about her experience. What a generous gift. I loved reading Paul’s piece in the New York Times – his voice was so clear and intelligent and filled with heart. It seems like your sister has a similar heart. xo.

    • what a great motto — “when in doubt, reach out” : , )

  36. Joanna Goddard says...

    Thank you so much for all these comments. I am tearing up reading them. xoxo

  37. I recently suffered an exceptional loss – a baby boy who was born at 25 weeks and lived for a month before passing. This also happened in the spring about the same time that Lucy lost her incredible husband. So I am time-wise in a similar place with my grief. This was a wonderful post to read and resonated with me so very much. I also have a basket of all of the physical cards that we received sitting in our living room – and I think about those cards every single day. My favorite card came from a nurse who cared for and loved my son. She wrote with such great detail about him and how it was an honor to take care of him. It’s now one of my greatest possessions. I also appreciated cards that were simple and heartfelt with sayings like “oh, how our hearts and prayers are with you. we love you so much.” And hands down, the best thing people wrote and said to me was simply, “i’m so sorry for your loss.” In my opinion, that’s the perfect default phrase to say to anyone in the thick of grief. Also, if I have learned anything being on the other side of intense grief, it’s that it is always better to say something, than to not say anything at all. We have many friends and acquaintances that actually wrote a card, email, or even sent flowers expressing their sorrow for our loss – but when we’ve seen them in person, they haven’t mentioned it. I’m certain it comes from a place of not wanting to make us emotional or uncomfortable in a social setting, but the truth is I want people to acknowledge it and I don’t mind talking about it.

    • Katie Larissa says...

      My thoughts are with you, Kelsey. So sorry for your terrible loss.
      I lost a baby last year too, and I found it to be so helpful when a handful of women talked to me about my child as if he had actually been a child, rather than just a pregnancy. And there were so many who didn’t mention anything to me and acted like life was the same as always, and that was surreal, because I was CONSTANTLY living in the awareness that my baby was dead.

    • tracey says...

      Kelsey and Katie I am so sorry to hear that you have had to endure the pain of losing a child. I send you both love.

  38. Lauren E. says...

    You cannot know how helpful this is. I’m one of those people who has no idea what to say or do at a time like that. Thanks for posting.

    • Teree says...

      I agree.

  39. Maggie Allen says...

    I couldn’t agree more with Lucy’s post. After losing my dad (much to soon) any time someone reached out it made a huge difference in my day. People were so unbelievably kind and when people still send letters or mention my dad six years after his passing, it still means just as much. Don’t hesitate, just write from your heart or just sign your name on a card. Everything counts.

  40. Michelle says...

    thank you, Joanna, for a touching and helpful post. I too have thought of Paul and Lucy so much since hearing of his illness and tragic passing. I am so sorry for your loss. I would love for you to know that Paul’s words “I can’t go, I must go on” are still inspiring me, and I am sure, many other people. One of my kids has special needs, and some days are so very difficult. His words get me through and I am so grateful. Lucy, I wish you peace and happiness in the days to come.

  41. This is so moving and helpful. Thank you so much for sharing, Lucy and Joanna. You’re both very strong women who are making a big difference in other people’s lives. xo

  42. Tyler says...

    The point about being specific is spot on. It’s so hard to take people up on offers to help if they are vague – “let me know what I can do.” Or better yet, if you’re close to that person, just do whatever it is – go buy them groceries or bring over a lasagne or hire them a cleaning service. Lots of out of town people also asked me if they should come to the funeral. I was like ???? If you want to?? A relative’s father died lately and it wasn’t convenient to go but I certainly did not call her and ask if she would like me to be there- I knew the answer was yes but she wouldn’t feel comfortable asking me to spend the money to come. I just went.

    And yes: it feels amazing to have your grief acknowledged six months or a year later. Someone knows you are still in pain.

    • Agreed. Don’t ask. Just go.

    • Jaclyn says...

      I had a falling out with a friend in college and her brother passed away a few years after we graduated. I knew in my heart that I should be there to show my support and it was the best thing I could’ve done because as soon as I walked into the funeral home it was as if all the bullshit we spent the last few years being angry at one another about just flew out the window and we were just as good of friends as we were in college.

  43. Emily says...

    These are so, so beautiful.

  44. Maureen G says...

    Lucy’s thoughts are spot-on…brought back a flood of memories for me. My husband was killed in an accident on a Friday afternoon 6 years ago. That night there were a zillion people in and out of the house…what I most remember is my young nephew walking in and handing me a jumbo-sized package of toilet paper. “My mom said you will need this…” It sounds crazy but it made me so glad that somehow my family knew to take care of the house-things I never would have considered with all that was spinning around in my head at that time.
    Wishing much strength and love to your Lucy…

  45. Lael says...

    A heartfelt reminder for all of us to be caring to each other. After I had a loss recently, a few close friends sent me lovely cards and I really felt a little better because of it. I mostly got silence because people didn’t know what to say. And that hurt way more.

  46. Camille says...

    Joanna, what a beautiful post ! once again your words and your sister’s words are so true and touching. I do not know Lucy, and obviously even if I have been reading your blog every day (for ages now!) I do not know you in person, but I was very and sincerely sad when Paul passed away. Thank you very much for sharing your stories and thoughts with us.

  47. I am so sorry to hear about your family’s loss. When my mother-in-law passed away, my husband and his family were smothered in kind words, deeds, cards, food, etc. I think the thing he found most helpful was the second one on your list. If someone was specific about how they could help, he just loved it. Food was also really great because our family was too depressed to cook, but everyone needs to eat. Thanks for sharing this sweet list.

    –Samantha

    http://www.BesosFromAmerica.com

  48. Nina says...

    Lucy and Joanna, thank you so much for pulling something useful out of such a sad situation – I never know what to write and this is really helpful. x

  49. Ramona says...

    Our 32 yr old daughter passed last year of pancreatic cancer. We received so many beautifully written cards. So did her husband. A treasured hand-drawn picture came from the daughter of the man who served as best man at their wedding. It told the story of her “dancing with the bride” at their wedding. Such a sweet memory shared with us! We love it and read it again and again.

  50. Although this is something we hope we’ll never have to write, it’s inevitable. THanks for these wise words on how to appropriately portray our condolences.

  51. Beth says...

    Thank you for posting, Jo. So thoughtful, as ever. This reminds me of a This I Believe segment from several years ago that I found so impactful: http://www.npr.org/2005/08/08/4785079/always-go-to-the-funeral. A gentle reminder that it does not take a huge amount of effort to make a grieving person feel cared for and loved. Thinking of you and Lucy and your families.

  52. yael steren says...

    Thanks for sharing this. I never know what to say in this situation and I don’t want to sound trite so sometimes I wonder if it’s best not to say anything at all. But after reading this, I realize now that any thoughts are appreciated! xoxo yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  53. Beth says...

    Lucy, thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself and Paul with us. I keep his writing saved on my computer and go back to read it often- he sounded like an amazing partner, father and doctor. Please know that as a mother and a wife that although I don’t know you you both have touched me so much. Please take care.

  54. Talia says...

    This is just lovely. Many thanks to Lucy for sharing. Please let her know I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers.

  55. Tash says...

    Excellent post, very timely for me. Thank you.

  56. Lauren says...

    Joanna, thank you for writing this and please thank your sister as well for her comments. It is beautifully written and I couldn’t agree more with the things you both said. My sister also lost her husband when she was very young, only 26, and I had many friends and family asking me what they should say to her–they even questioned whether or not she wanted to hear from anyone at all because my brother-in-law’s passing at just 30 years old, even though his illness had been a lifelong battle, was so devastating. The best thing a person can do for someone who is grieving is offer love and support. Just like your sister, mine read each and every card and note that was sent and appreciated them all so much. My deepest condolences to your sister and your entire family.

  57. Ach, I loved this, but I am so sorry for your great loss.

  58. I lost my husband suddenly to lymphoma five weeks ago, eleven days before what would have been his 31st birthday.

    This post is a perfect articulation of all I’ve felt since he passed. I second flowers–I’m a flower person so each bouquet made my heart burst. I also prefer cards to anything else because they take off the pressure of needing to respond. The other nice thing about cards is that I could open them whenever ever *I* felt emotionally ready and prepared, or in particular need of comfort (unlike texts or Facebook messages that just come when they come,)

    I am so sorry for your sister’s loss. I hate that we share a similar story. Grateful she’s writing and using her story to help others. I’m trying to do a little bit of that myself over at my blog, andreaenright.net.

  59. Kelsey says...

    This is all so true. My father died 3 years ago and I loved the cards and the stories people would tell about him. It made it easier to smile when I thought about him instead of crying. It never gets easier, but with time the urge to cry with every memory fades and you begin to smile more.

  60. This was really beautiful. Thank you Lucy and Jo for writing this… death and grief are so hard to write about and I know this will help many people going through those dark times <3 Praying for you + your families + friends!

  61. MM says...

    This is beautifully written. My heart hurts for your sister. My dad is very sick, his name is Paul too. I wish I could send this to all our loved ones. We have a lot of stoics in the family, and while I’m glad they’re being strong, I’d love to hear how they’re really feeling and I think it would do my mom some good. Thanks Jo!

  62. Susan says...

    Condolences can be hard to express because we ourselves, often do not ponder on the what life really means.
    If we ponder Who love Is, the words will follow and even overflow in expressing condolences.
    To console another in times of sorrow, we must refer them to greatest consoler of all: Christ. His love was the greatest of all, He laid on the wooden beam with nails through His hands and feet to fasten Him. He bled His precious blood to open the gates of heaven for those who wish to know Love.
    If we ponder this, we will know what to say to our living family and friends now, the present moment; then when condolences are due, Christ’s Love will suffice.

  63. annie g says...

    I agree; be honest and be simple. A friend of mine became a widow last year when her husband killed himself. There was literally nothing to say so I said that. It made it a lot easier to talk about her life and how she was managing. A few of us got together with her some months later and spent time chatting, cooking, mopping tears, offering round much-needed drink and cigarettes, talking about the past and the present. I think it helped us all.

  64. Simone says...

    I deal with grieving parents regularly as a part of my job and I loved reading that getting a card with heartfelt words is comforting… The spoken word is so lost on the grieving that having something tangible to look at again and again when you are ready is so … Nice!

  65. Thank you for this, it can be so so hard to know where to start and this really proves you just have to be honest and sincere and pour your heart into it x

  66. This is so lovely. In a way it’s like a condolence card of your own. So well written and very helpful to people wondering how to help or talk to a grieving person.
    I hope I don’t have to use your advice, but I’m very glad it’s here in case I do. Thank you and all my warm wishes to your sister and family.

  67. Aina says...

    Great post with so many good tips for how to reach out. Thanks!

  68. Karen B says...

    What an amazing post and thank you to your sister in law for sharing her thoughts and feelings, it is always so difficult to know what to say and what the effect of yours words might be. Thank you. :)

  69. Cindy says...

    Such wonderful advice. I don’t know you or your sister, but reading this post gave me a lump in my throat. The Dalai Lama says that “because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister.” My heart goes out to all of you.

  70. Dp says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  71. Nancy says...

    Just lovely. Your sister is an inspiration.
    This blog just gets better and better.

  72. Kelly says...

    I’ve kept all the cards and notes I was sent when my dad passed away five months ago. There’s definitely something about those written words that make me feel loved. I even received a letter from a stranger that was touched by his obituary – it’s one I will cherish forever.

  73. Eleanor says...

    This was beautiful, Joanna, and it made me cry. Thank you so much for sharing.

  74. larissa says...

    This is beautiful and truly useful. What a gift from you sister to share this advice and such tender and personal words.

  75. Kelsey says...

    Thank you so much to Lucy for sharing. I love the picture of Lucy and Paul, so much love. I want to be the kind of person who is there for someone. I will admit sometimes I feel paralyzed because I don’t know what I say and this helps so much. I just wrote a brief letter to someone dear to me who lost someone this year inspired by this post. Thank you.

  76. Kevin Graves says...

    This was beautiful and heartfelt, and can help so many people, who just don’t know what to say. I’ve lost my spouse and my immediate family but I still look at the cards from time to time. People wrote things that stuck in my mind and I was and am so grateful. Thank you siter for sharing.

  77. This is so personal and beautiful, and very helpful for people on the other side. Thank you so much for sharing, Lucy and Joanna.

  78. This is so perfect. This piece really resonated with me: “The grieving person is thinking about the person 100% of the time; nothing you say is going to make her sadder; instead, the stories you tell are going to make her feel connected.” I think people so often worry that they will make me feel sad if they bring up my sister (who died in September). They don’t realize I am thinking about her all the time, and by bringing her up I feel more connected to the person I am speaking to, I feel like they understand ‘where I am at’, and I am always thrilled to hear a story I haven’t heard before, or see a photo that is new to me. Thank you Lucy and Joanna for sharing this. xo

  79. I loved this article. Absolutely wonderful and beautiful advice.

  80. Lisa says...

    This is so heartfelt and so useful – thank you. Paul sounds like an amazing person. I’m sure he was rightfully proud of the life he and Lucy created together. Hugs and cheers to a life well lived.

  81. Jenn says...

    I loved this post. Made my heart ache but made my heart feel happy to. Such simple things are needed by each other. It is funny, I actually contemplated tracking your sister down and sending her a card to California…I decided against it, but maybe that is exactly what I should do.

    xo

  82. Renae says...

    This was such a poignant post. Thanks to you and your sister. I’m not sure if she will read these comments, but I still think of her husband and family. His essay, his story was the kind of thing that one does not easily forget.

  83. Cara says...

    i love my dad unexpectedly when he was 55 and I was 28, having never lost anyone close to me before I have people ask me a lot about what’s appropriate to say to those who lose a loved one. I think this is a spot perfect example of all the things to say. My only advice to include would be there is never anything wrong to say, except to say nothing. Even the most redicioulus and “not comforting” things people said to me I still deeply appreciated bc at least they were saying something. I think once you experience lose you also realize how difficult it is to actual say something to the family, so you appreciate any guesture, any words, any card, even anything redicioulus- that much more! Thank you for writting this piece, it’s perfection!

  84. Kristin says...

    This is the reason I follow your beautiful, touching and informative blog. If you ever move to Minneapolis, we will be fast friends. I love you, your sister, your kids and your family. I spend a lot of time feeling way too connected to (and annoyed by) work via the Internet, but this type of post is what makes me realize how wonderful it is to have this type of online community. Sending much love to you and your family and I am so sorry for your loss. Seems like Paul was a real gem.

  85. Gabriella says...

    Wow, how extraordinary. I had to write a condolence note today and, as I was procrastinating and thinking about what to say, checked this site. Very helpful!

  86. Erica H. says...

    Thanks to you and your sister for sharing. XO

  87. Erin LaDue says...

    When an ex boyfriend died suddenly I was devistated. I tracked his sister down via Facebook and told her who I was and how I knew her brother. Because she had never meet me I told her about how everyone we worked with loved him then told her a story her brother had told me about her son. She was so grateful to hear from me, a complete stranger. It really helped me as well to reach out and share my grief. As Lucy wrote it really is so meaningful to reach out and let the person know how much you miss their loved one too. Thanks for this post.

  88. Great post. Someone once told me that a handwritten card trumps all – from thank you notes, to condolences. I always struggle with writing cards like this, always feeling like I come off cheesy.

    My coworker’s grandfather passed away recently, and I had no idea how to console him. I just checked in to see how he was doing and let him talk.

  89. Liz says...

    I felt the same way after losing my mom and dad. Literally any extension of love and outreach went straight to my heart. Feel so deeply for your sister.

  90. Suzie says...

    Thank you for writing this very important post. A good friend of mine specifically said to me when I was going through a hard time, “I can cook you (more) food, I can clean your bathroom, I can watch your son.” Because she was so specific, I asked her to come over and clean my bathroom and watch my son. It made all the difference that she was very specific about what she could do.

    I would love to send a condolence card to Lucy if you think that would lift her spirits a little. I looked for a business address on this blog but couldn’t find one. Email me if you want with your business address and I can send it on for you to forward to your sis.

    xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      What a touching story. Thank you so much for sharing. I am going to write about cleaning bathrooms condolence cards now; it really gets the point across that you’ll do anything to help. You and your friend sound like you have a lovely relationship.

      And thank you for asking to write to Lucy! That is so nice of you. If you’d like, email me and I’d be happy to share our office address. hello at cupofjo dot com xoxo

  91. Lauren says...

    What a beautiful and helpful post. This is a good reminder for me especially because my wonderful housekeeper is coming tomorrow and it’s just about the 1 year anniversary of her granddaughter and great granddaughters death. I will make sure to acknowledge it by writing a thoughtful note and giving extra hugs. Hugs to your sister. My husband is also a surgeon so I know how many lives Paul touched. I hope she continues to receive notes from his coworkers, patients and friends for many years to come.

  92. Yvonne says...

    Thank you for sharing this. The last thing Lucy said about it feeling good to receive flowers a year or more later is very true. Every year on the anniversary of my mother’s death, my husband would give me flowers. And each year, it made me feel better to know that my husband, who never met her, still remembered her for me. And then, one year, wonderfully, I felt like I didn’t need those flowers anymore. Not that I didn’t miss her, and not that I was ‘over it’, but that I felt healed. Grieving is a long process, and I wish your sister the best. It is very kind of her, and you, to share your life and lessons with strangers in this way.

  93. Claire says...

    Thank you, Joanna and Lucy, for sharing such a deeply personal part of your lives with us. It means the world – and shows such strength, kindness, and warmth of your characters – that during your immense grief you think of others who are struggling, too, and offer words not only to them, but to their friends, families, and loved ones so that we might better be able to show them our love and support. You Goddard women (your mother, too, from what I’ve read!), have the biggest hearts. Thanks so much for letting us into your lives day after day, I think I speak for all your readers when I say we’re better women for it. Much love.

  94. Joanna,
    This was so helpful to hear. I never know what to write or say. My business partner always said, when his first wife died, that the worst part was people would ignore him or treat him as invisible because they didn’t know what to write or say. This makes me feel like I don’t need to say just the right thing or find the perfect words, but that anything heartfelt will be appreciated. It’s really great post. Big hugs to you and your sister. I don’t know her or Paul but I am sending what warmth I have to you and your family.
    xoxo,
    Yen

  95. Barb says...

    These condolences are so beautiful and touching. I’m teary eyed at the love they convey and hope that Lucy and your family continue to feel buoyed up by that love.

  96. Hanna says...

    “The grieving person is thinking about the person 100% of the time; nothing you say is going to make her sadder; instead, the stories you tell are going to make her feel connected.”

    Wow- this really struck a chord with how I’m going to approach grieving people in my life.

  97. Lindsay G. says...

    Beautiful and heartbreaking post. I truly believe love and friendship do help lift people up when their loss is so heavy.

  98. Alison says...

    Thank you for sharing this post. Such good, thoughtful tips. When I was ten my Dad also died of lung cancer. I asked his friends, family members, coworkers, childhood friends, really anyone who knew him, to write a letter either to or about my Dad. I spent the weeks after he died putting these all into a book. Ten years later, this book is still so special to me. I have a collection of stories from so many different periods of my Dad’s life- school, sports, business, family, travel- from people who loved him. I have learned things from these letters that I never knew about him and I find it so comforting to be reminded of all the people who miss him and read their words of condolences. Some of the extra special cards we received from people are also in this book, with the rest in boxes.

    I highly recommend this idea to anybody experiencing a lost!

  99. Sadly, this is very timely for me. One of my best friends just lost her father to a car accident two days ago. I want to be there for her in whatever way I can, and this is such a helpful and thoughtful collection of advice. Yet another way that Paul’s life has helped others. Thank you.

  100. Emily says...

    My father died when I was a teenager. My best friend’s family dropped off flowers for at least 5 years on the anniversary of his death. Grief doesn’t go away and it’s helpful to know that others remember that person too.

  101. Thanks for sharing this Jo. It’s ironic that In this age of online ‘connectedness’ , we seemed to have lost the human touch of a personal handwritten note, a phonecall, a house visit, a bouquet of flowers or turn up with a hug. I’ve lost 2 stillborns and our 3rd baby daughter died on us in the NICU so I know how awfully lonely this road of grief can be. I pray Lucy will find joy again, slowly but surely with the support network around her. And I wish all of you well. xoxo.

    • Lael says...

      Im so sorry for your losses. Praying and hoping for joy to surround you in your life soon. xo

  102. Elise says...

    Such a beautiful and helpful post. I love reading your blog.

  103. coral says...

    Thank you so much for writing this and some of the other posts about your family, as I’m sure it must be so hard and vulnerable. I feel that loss and grief and some of the most human things we can go through, that we all go through, yet so many people seem completely unsure, unversed, and untaught on how to help and so do nothing. I hope you can know that starting these conversations will truly help people, and that knowledge can cause just a little bit of healing.

  104. Marta says...

    Wow! Such an interesting and useful post (as always). I’ve never thought about condolence notes as something that can really help in the grieving process. And it was really important for me to read your syster’s opinion about them.
    At least in Portugal, where I live, these kind of notes and often considered to be more like a conventional thing to do. But when we think about paper as something that lasts a long time and that is slowly being replaced by many digital tools, it’s really interesting to realize that it feels good to go back to them, even years after our beloved ones have passed away.
    Thank you Joanna for this post, and thanks to Lucy for having shared with us such personal thoughts.

  105. Blair says...

    Thank you for posting this Joanna. The suggestions are beautiful, poignant, and right on track. I lost both of my parents by the time I was 16, and ten years later I still have a box of all of the letters I received. It’s amazing to look back and see the impact they have on others. It’s so important to keep those memories alive, and I’m so glad that your sister has received that support. Lots of love to you and your family!

  106. This is a wonderful, thoughtful, meaningful post. I’m a therapist often working with bereaved clients, and so many clients have echoed what your sister noted was especially helpful. This post is so appreciated.

  107. Ingrid says...

    Thank you, Lucy. Your kindness in sharing your experience will help many others. I still think of you and your daughter often. Hugs.

  108. Natasha says...

    This is such a beautiful post. I don’t know Lucy or Paul, but have been so touched by their story and Paul’s writing. I was so sad to hear of his passing, and am glad your sister is feeling surrounded by a circle of love from near and far. Also, seeing her in the photo accompanying this post made me realize what strong resemblance she and Toby have :) xo.

  109. Katie says...

    Joanna, this is so uplifting and helpful. It’s so good to hear what is appreciated, the reach-out-any-time part, the reach-out-even-if-you’re-just-an-acquaintance part. Thank you to your sister, as well, for being open and vulnerable to share this.

  110. Jill Palumbo says...

    This is very helpful. The thing I remember most about my brother passing away is my in laws not acknowledging my grief and loss at all – no card, no call, no flowers…………something is better than nothing.

  111. Thank you for this post! I never know what to say or send of when it’s appropriate. I was actually thinking of Lucy today. Is that weird?
    A once-close friend lost her dad two weeks ago I had to look for her business card to get in touch. We used to refer to each other as hetero-life mates, we lost touch when our lives went in different directions. Life mates not so much. Any who…
    I’ll be sure to send flowers and a card and not worry about what to say.
    Thank you again!

  112. Beth says...

    When my grandma passed away, one of my sorority sisters insisted on coming to my house and making a meal for my family. It wasn’t anything particularly fancy or expensive–though I do remember some amazing artichokes–but the effort and time and care given to me and my family at an especially sad time was what I will always remember. It was a good thing she insisted, because had she said “let me know if you need anything,” I never would have taken her up on it.

    The things you have shared about Lucy, Paul, and everything leading up to Paul’s passing have really rocked me to my core, but in a way that has encouraged me to think realistically about a topic no one ever wants to think about. Thank you for sharing such personal and important pieces of your life!

  113. Chiara says...

    Thank you Lucy and Joanna. I so so agree with this post and want to send it to everyone I know.
    I’m 24 and my mother passed away a few months ago. I received wonderful messages, cards from lots of people. A few others, I noticed, found it complicated how to deal with me or what to say to me, so they avoided it. Even some of my best friends didn’t always understand, and they would tell others not to bother me with a card or a message the first week. But it’s not like that at all! More than ever, I needed kind words and thoughts, and feel like I wasn’t alone.
    I would encourage anyone who reads this, to take Lucy’s words to heart and write! Anything. It doesn’t have to shine. Just let them know that you care.

  114. Elle says...

    Lucy’s advice is wonderful. I recently lost my mom (also lung cancer, also a non-smoker) and my advice is to not allow the fear of saying the wrong thing, keep you from saying anything at all. For example, I had a few people say things that I thought were bizarre or even rude. But later, I would share it with my husband and we’d get a good laugh out of it (because we truly do understand not knowing what to say!). Maybe this isn’t the response you want, but you made grieving people laugh, so that’s a comfort in its own way, right? Also, I would rather someone say the wrong thing than nothing at all (honestly!). At least the person was acknowledging my lost, even if the way they chose to do it wasn’t my preference.

    • Elena says...

      I’m sorry for your loss. Like some of your friends, I also don’t usually know how to react in these difficult moments, and as a result I am not so present as I should be… But after reading this post and your (and other) comments, I’ll try to react better in future occasions. Love and a lot of Energy from Spain.

  115. MHS says...

    I live in the Bay and heard about Paul’s story. His piece, “Before I go” was incredibly touching. I’m a devoted reader of your blog, but didn’t realize the connection until now. Thank you for guidance on how to comfort those experiencing grief. Also, please let Lucy know that her husband’s life touched the heart of strangers in a powerful way.

  116. Kim says...

    This was spot on!! We lost our 23 yr old son 7 weeks ago so this really spoke to us.

    • Katie says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Sending you and your family love from afar.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Kim, I am so, so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the pain you must be feeling. Sending you a big hug.

  117. Lily says...

    Great advice. Even now, 24 years after my dad’s death I still love hearing personal stories people share about him. If it’s a moment you weren’t there for it’s like the gift of a new memory with your loved one. <3

  118. Preethi says...

    Such a beautiful post. Often people do not know how to respond to someone else’s grief. Especially those who haven’t felt loss before in their lives. Your post is really helpful.

    I always remember your post about by Kate Suddes about what she went through. I was going through the exact same thing at that time.

    Thank you for such thoughtful posts. All my love and prayers to Lucy and your family.

  119. Samantha says...

    What an excellent post. I am bookmarking this for the unfortunate inevitable truth that I will need it for a close friend or family member some time in the future. My heart goes out to Lucy and her daughter, and your entire family. I did not know Paul, but I read his article and it was extremely powerful. He was obviously a brilliant and thoughtful man, and I’m sure he will be missed by countless people.

  120. I hope your sister is doing well, she’s in my prayers. This is such an important post. I think a lot of people don’t reach out because they’re not sure what to say, but even a simple “I’m sorry for your loss” can mean so much.

  121. erin says...

    Thank you for sharing this.

  122. Aga says...

    What a terribly beautiful and sad post. I was teary by the time i got to the (very intriguing and handsome!) photo of Paul.

    My favourite line about loss is from a Leonard Cohen song: “Death is old, but it’s always new”. It reminds me that grief will change and morph with time, it might even abate, but, just like the loss, it will never cease.

    Love and light to you and Lucy, and everyone here dealing with a loss. xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you so much for that quote. And it feels so new when it happens to you; in a funny way it feels like such a singular experience, even though death is as common as birth.

  123. This is so helpful. Thanks for sharing :)

  124. manuela odell says...

    This is my favorite piece to share when someone passes. It is a Hopi Prayer and it represents so much; strength, beauty, nature, the circle of life. Please share it with your sister and family.

    Do not stand at my grave and weep.
    I am not there, I do not sleep.
    I am the thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glint in the snow.
    I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
    I am the autumn’s gentle rain.
    When you awaken in the morning hush,
    I am the swift uplifting rush.
    Of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there,
    I did not die.

    • Wow! Thank you for sharing this prayer!

  125. What a sad, wonderful, thoughtfully composed post. Thank you so much, Jo. Thank you, especially, to Lucy. I don’t know you at all, but will send you and your family loving vibes today.

  126. Elizabeth says...

    This was beautiful. I read the link to Paul’s essay that you posted here and it’s stayed with me and was so thought provoking. I wondered how he was doing after that and was so sad when I heard that he passed away. He was so young, smart and caring. I’ve thought of Lucy and their daughter over the last few months and I am so sorry about Paul.

  127. Sarah says...

    Thanks so much for this, Lucy. We’ve all been thinking about you, holding you in our hearts, even though we’re just readers far away only connected through the fiber cables of the Internet, we care about you, your family, your story. There’s so much light and love out there. I (we, us daily readers of this special blog) hope you feel it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      What a beautiful note, Sarah. Thank you so much. xoxo

  128. Julia says...

    Thank you and your sister for taking the time to write about such an important topic and yet it’s one, as a society, that we don’t like to talk about. I applaud you for writing this article and providing sincere advice on how to handle death in our friend’s and acquaintance’s lives. You’ll going to help so many people with this post!

  129. Jennifer I says...

    when I was in college, my mother sent me a card every day. When she passed three years ago, my college roommates got together and divvied up days so that I got a card from one of them every day for a month. It meant the world to me that they remembered.

  130. Kate says...

    In college, my high school boyfriend died in a car accident. I received many texts and calls that night but the one that sticks out the most is from a girl who I’m actually not super close. She text me and said I’m thinking of you and I’m sorry but you don’t have to respond. I just want to make sure you’re okay. It meant a lot that she wanted to reach out but didn’t make me feel obligated to respond.

  131. Diane says...

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post, Joanna and Lucy.

  132. Megan says...

    Thank you.

  133. EJ says...

    My mom recently passed away and an acquaintance who also endured a tragedy told me that it helped me months later, people reached out to just say “I’m still thinking of you” and it’s completely true. You are not better after many months, or many years even I imagine, and knowing that you are not alone in your grief is very helpful when it feels like everyone else has moved on.

  134. this post is actually SUPER helpful. i always feel awkward writing condolence cards. I never know exactly what to say…esp when it comes to co-workers who family members have passed (like a mother, father, etc.). But these outlines are helpful esp. when it comes to “Literally nothing is too cheesy to write. ” I love that her friend simply wrote “THIS SUCKS.” I feel like that would be something I would write to a very close friend who lost someone. Thank you Lucy for sharing this. It’s amazing what you’ll learn and find through the hardest times. Sometimes the lessons can be so small and sometimes they can be so great. Keep on learning and keep on teaching.

    <3
    heather
    fashionistanygirl.com

  135. margaux says...

    oh, this is such a valuable post for so many. thank you.

  136. Wonderful post. I’m remembering my Mom re-reading all of the cards ( nothing was electronic in 1979) she received after my Dad died and she was widowed with five kids at age 38!
    What I think she really needed was follow up later on! Every card, text, flowers, and especially food, happen so soon after the death that the food goes to the visitors. The family is too grief stricken to eat. But six, twelve, 20 weeks later a delivered meal would have been REALLY helpful to my Mom. An invite to have coffee and talk, etc. were very much needed.
    So follow-up is my advice!

    • Katie says...

      I so agree with this comment. My partner of ten years lost his mother in April. Through this experience I learned that so many people are afraid to bring up the person several weeks, months (and years) after the fact because they don’t want to upset the bereaved. However, not saying anything can be harmful, but saying something can be SO helpful. Whether the bereaved is showing their grief or not, the person left behind is going through an extremely difficult time. Acknowledgement makes the person feel less alone and validates their feelings. You might be more of a comfort than you even know. So don’t be afraid to reach out!

  137. We recently lost someone very dear to us. We also have that big basket of cards in our living from that reminds us how much people care. I walk by the room and see my husband and son now and again peering in the basket.

    You are so right, that it doesn’t really matter what words you use. Messages of love always come through and comfort us through the darkest of hours.

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Do you remember what Cheryl Sandberg said? Ask, “how are you today, not just how are you.” It makes a world of difference.

  138. ashley says...

    Excellent post Jo. I couldn’t agree with them more. Sending good vibes Lucy’s way. xoxo

  139. Ali says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this and to your sister for being brave enough to allow you to do so. It is always the hardest thing to know what to say. All of your posts about how to deal with loss have been very poignant while still practical and helpful.

  140. Susan says...

    This post was so timely for me. I spoke to two acquaintances today who separately lost loved ones suddenly from cancer. A good reminder that life is short and should be well lived. And remembered well.

  141. This was so beautiful. Thanks to Lucy for taking the time to compile your thoughts! I will be referencing this for future letter writing.

    • Sam says...

      I really appreciate this post. Having had a few people around me lose loved ones, I am so genuinely terrified of saying something wrong or hurtful by accident, that I automatically default to saying nothing at all, which, in hindsight would no doubt have hurt even more.

      I appreciate also where Lucy talked about recieving notes from people she didn’t know, telling her how wonderful they thought her husband was.
      For years I always had the impression to write to a college teacher and thank him for his kindness and faith in me, but I never did. A few months ago, having thought of it again, I googled him to try and find his email details and discovered his obituary instead. I was so heartbroken, and angry at myself for putting of something until it was too late. But Lucy’s thought have made me realise it’s not completely too late. I’m going to write to his wife and tell her that her husband was a good man and a good teacher and will be greatly missed. And I’m thinking of Lucy. I have no doubt it would be a long long time before it gets a little easier to breathe. X

  142. Catherine says...

    This is beautiful. Love and thanks.

  143. My family experienced a great deal of loss last year, six people died inside of six months. Honestly, I don’t remember much about what people did do, although certainly there are poignant moments that stick in my mind. The thing that hurt–that still hurts– are the people that are close to us who barely acknowledged our grief at all. That I remember. I totally get why they didn’t reach out. People are afraid of saying the wrong thing, and they’re afraid of their own emotions, but we have friends who we have known for a decade that didn’t so much as text when my husband’s dad died. We would have dropped everything to be there for them, but they did nothing. I try not to hold it against them, because they don’t know, but it still hurts.

    On the other hand, we did get so many kind words and cards and Facebook messages from people we don’t know well, or that were friends of our loved ones who we didn’t know at all, and many of those people had lost people close to them. There’s a community in grief, and it’s so comforting to know that people who have lost loved ones just want to do anything, no matter how small, to make you feel better.

    • Me says...

      Yes this!! We lost multiple family members in a four month period. It’s amazing how people will avoid you because they don’t want to be bothered to show empathy or think of how to support you. We literally had lifelong best friends tell us they’d never gone through anything like that so they weren’t going to talk to us while we were grieving. What?? That’s the time you need people most. Time and again we reached out to supposed best friends only to be ignored. No return calls or emails or texts. We got so mad at all the supposed “advice ” from grief counsellors not to do it alone. We were trying but no one wanted to share our grief. Even those we’d specifically seen through their own tragedies and supported them. We had never ever asked a thing of our friends before. It was the first time in my life I asked for support from anyone. At first I thought people werent supportive because I didnt ask and if I would just communicate I needed them theyd be there. But no. It’s heartbreaking to know how you’ve always been there for other’s hard times but they’re silent during yours. And not just silent but resist you if you reach out. I was literally told “call me when you’re done grieving. ” How incredibly selfish! I used to think I had great friends because we were so close and I’d always been there for them. The one time I actually needed support in return I realized they weren’t friends at all. If you’re reading this and someone you know has lost a beloved stop being selfish and avoiding empathy. It may not be pleasant to imagine being in their shoes or to share their grief. It may be sad and uncomfortable. But what kind of person do you want to be? One who is remembered for selfishness during a friend’s time of need, or as a real friend who offers themselves in support?

  144. Lana says...

    Such beautiful advice. I think of Lucy every once in awhile (though j don’t know her) Bc I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose your partner at such a young age. Whenever she enters my mind I send big, loving thoughts her way.

  145. Gretchen says...

    And now I’m sitting here crying as I try to work in a coffee shop! This post is so timely as a friend just lost her 14 year old son to cancer yesterday, after a brutal eight year battle. I will keep these tips in mind when writing to her.

    • Julia says...

      I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your friend. ((hugs!))

  146. Lauren says...

    this is such a useful and sweet post. much love and thanks to your sister!

  147. Anna says...

    My younger sister died when I was 8 and she was 5. Every year, a friend of my mom’s sent her a note around the anniversary of her death. Nothing long, just to acknowledge that she wasn’t forgotten, was loved and remembered. And the mother of my sister’s playmate sent her a note when her daughter graduated from high school; again, to acknowledge the loss and that people still remembered her and our family. My mother treasured those notes, and I think it meant that much more through the passage of time.

    • Sarah says...

      I bet those cards meant so much to your mama, and to you, too. xx

  148. Mary says...

    I love this so, so much! Thank you to Lucy for her insight. As a longtime reader, I’ve been thinking about her over the last few months. I hope she is doing well.

  149. Thank you for this. My co-worker’s father died last week, and I saw someone left a card on her desk. When I went to put mine there a few days later, there were 5 more cards. I was glad to know other people had reached out to her.

    I had texted my co-worker the day after it happened, but never heard back from her. When she got back into the office, she said it meant so much to her to have that text from me.

    My fiance’s cousin was just diagnosed with Stage III B melanoma, and we feel so unsure of what to say…this post will really help with that!