A woman I know recently lost her brother. I was friends with him when we were little kids, and I’ve been friends with her forever. We’re not besties, but we’re very happy to see each other when we do, and we have long talks on the phone.
I heard the news two days after it happened and called her right away. I left her a message that didn’t require a response. The next day I followed up with mutual friends for details on the funeral and other celebrations of life.
I didn’t hear from her that day, so called her again the next day. Again, she didn’t answer, so I left her another message. I also sent her a text in case she wasn’t listening to her messages.
I knew the funeral was in another two days, so I texted her again offering my help in any way she needed. I never heard from her. I assumed she was wrapped up in family and details and mourning. I went to the funeral and back to her house afterwards. We hugged and cried, and then she asked where I’d been.
She hadn’t received any of my messages! Now I feel like a fool. How can I make it up to her?
I’m sad for you and for the several other people writing to us lately about loss.
Everyone grieves differently. There’s no right or wrong way to do anything around loss unless you ignore it completely.
And your grief language may differ from your friends, and may even differ from loss to loss, depending on your relationship with the deceased.
When the time is right, and emotions are less pronounced, you can show your friend your messages on her phone. In the meantime, ask her what she needs/wants from you in a loving way. Offer to take her for a walk, to just sit with her and talk about her brother, to go through photos. Offer help with food prep, shopping, meals. Offer whatever you have in you to do.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman feeling awkward about the gifts she receives at the holidays (Dec. 23):
Reader – “I suggest to just be grateful and pay it forward. There are many hospitals, rehab facilities and seniors and long-term care facilities that would welcome such gifts. Unfortunately, I have seen how many seniors have been abandoned in such facilities by their families. Some flowers to brighten up their room would always be welcome, no matter what time of year.”
Lisi – Yes, great idea! Gracefully showing gratitude because it IS the thought that counts. And then paying it forward. Best response.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman with a guilty conscience (Dec. 14):
Reader – “This woman has a guilty conscience because she IS guilty! Her parents risk injury babysitting her daughter so much. This mom has some nerve expecting these grandparents, who are over 70, to take care of her child. She should be taking care of them instead!
“But that won't happen because they will probably be thrown in a nursing home. If she and her husband are busy with their careers, they should make alternate arrangements and pay for daycare instead of expecting free babysitting.”
Lisi – I added this reader’s response because I found it so strongly juxtaposed to other responses, especially from one woman who called me ageist for assuming the grandparents were too tired to babysit.
It proves the point that everyone reads these columns and interprets the story according to their own narrative. Including me. I just try to find the balance. In this case, I wasn’t suggesting she disallow her parents to babysit, nor do I see anything wrong with her asking them to spend time with their grandchildren. Life is about balance.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman who was sad and lonely (Dec. 26):
Reader – “Your advice was spot on. I also suggest senior activity facilities, such as the one in my hometown of Peterborough (Activity Haven) which is partly supported by the city and the province and is specifically designed to help older adults keep active and socializing.
“There are drop-in programs for people who like to play cards, billiards, discuss current events, play table tennis, throw darts, do wood carving, quilt, hook rugs, Swedish weaving, play guitar, shuffleboard, board games or go walking as a group.
“There are instructional programs to learn guitar, line dancing, take yoga or learn to paint.
“There are special events, including lunch twice a week, bus trips to theatres, concerts, etc. Most cities have such facilities and cost is very reasonable. Programs are geared to seniors and are very cost friendly.”