When someone you love has a bereavement or bad news - what do you do?

Posted by Kiri Hider on

Gifts - they are the thing we associate with happy occasions - birthdays, weddings, new babies. But when someone has the unthinkable happen to them - what do you do? What do you say or not say?

Tradition tells us to send flowers at these times but do we ask ourselves if this is appropriate? Don't get me wrong - I am a BIG lover of flowers. But I love them for happy times, decorating and celebrating. Whenever I have had them as a condolence or a thinking of you I find they are delegated to a corner (in fact once I threw them out because I did not want flowers in my house when one of my family was facing a life-threatening diagnosis - bad I know but hardly the time of emotionally great decisions). Often people receive multiple flowers at once and it is often at a time that the recipient is not interested or able to look after them in the coming days or able to face a house full of flowers when they are possibly in a quiet reflective time.

Practical help is completely underrated - do they need groceries, the dog walked, people picked up from the airport, the lawn mowed? Don't ask - just do it! Taking care of the mundane everyday jobs is a huge weight lifted off their shoulders. But be careful that these offers don't all just occur in the immediate time frame - spreading them out will ensure that they know people are caring about them into the future.

Appropriate gifts can be a thoughtful way of letting someone know that you are thinking of them as well as an opportunity to encourage the person to take time out for themselves. If there has been a bereavement, use the person's name in greeting cards - this acknowledgement is so important yet so often overlooked. 

Talk about the person who has passed or who is unwell - keeping them in conversation is important, don't try and avoid it. People often say they feel quite confused when people don't mention the situation or ask how they are doing. They are aware there is an 'elephant in the room' but by not acknowledging it friendships can be damaged at a time when they are more important than ever. You may not say what you want perfectly but your presence is so important. It is better to say 'I don't know what to say but I care about you' than nothing at all.

Worried what to say? There are definitely some things that should not be said, even with the best intentions:

  • It's going to be OKAY.
  • At least it's not...
  • You look great!
  • You look terrible
  • What can I do to help? (Just do something!)

Click here to read ideas on what to say - this has been written in relation to a cancer diagnosis but the advice rings true for all situations.

Boxsmith is currently developing a range of gifts for situations where people have received bad news. The Wellness category contains gift boxes that are suitable alternatively you can build your own box. We'd love to hear what you would love to see in these gift boxes - email us at hello@boxsmith.co.nz 



1 comment

  • bridget macfarlane

    Such helpful words. It’s hard to know what the right thing to say is and what the right thing to do is. Just doing something to help without asking is a helpful piece of advice. Thank you.

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