I recently read an article on what to say and what not to say to someone who lost a loved one. When my brother died, my family heard it all. We got every type of response from letters to in person, over the phone, text or emails. My reaction to each was appreciation. This person obviously took time to reach out. Whether or not they offered guidance, assistance, support. Whether or not they told me to do something, feel something, stay strong, hang in there, act tough for my parents. Each message was sent with a good heart. Each person went out of their way to acknowledge I was in their thoughts. I choose to assume all of these people had simple, good intentions.
I can bet almost no one read an article on “writing sympathy notes” before reaching out. Even I hadn’t until now. If I went around criticizing what people said to me when they mean well, I’d be stripping myself from the good in life. Dimming light and dampening pure positivity. Why should I complicate a loving moment? I want to embrace all love and all light. There is too much sensitivity in our world today. Too much nitpicking at words and assuming intentions. I know I’m happier when I assume the best and move forward. What good is questioning something meant to be kind? I appreciate the thought and the effort, however it is packaged.
I personally try to formulate my condolences, all my comments really, in a way that is supportive and leaving everyone feeling better. However, on the other end of that, I try to receive in that same way. Supportive of the general message, feeling better however I can control. Reading less into a nice gesture and just accepting kindness leaves me feeling kinder. Just as low expectations prepare for lovely surprises, surprises are lovelier accepted as they are. I can’t control someone else’s words, only how I hear them. So whether someone told me to “be strong” or simply expressed “there are no words,” I heard “I’m thinking about you and sending my love.”
A week before my brother died, my friend lost his. I remember being in those shoes. Wondering if it’s appropriate to text him. If it would be another burden added to his devastating and busy week. Curious what I could possibly say that would offer any help, especially from across the country. I ended up sending a simple message along the lines of “no pressure to respond, just wanted you to know your family is in my prayers.” Unknowing I’d be in his shoes a week later, I was prepared to hold zero judgement on how friends responded in the leading days. I could have easily come to the conclusion it was better to leave it alone. Nothing I could say could change the fact that this life was lost and the lives around will suffer forever. Each and every message received was acknowledged as a difficult task from the other end. A heavy battle for anyone involved. I recognize that anyone having the courage to say anything at all is a blessing.
So while considering our words and how they affect others is obviously important, my advice today isn’t on that. My advice is to practice how we receive words. Allowing love and light into our lives without painting over it. Appreciating support however someone may show it and valuing kindness over details. The more love we accept, the more loving our lives will be.