Acknowledging the loss matters.

The son of an acquaintance. The husband, dad, brother, son, uncle of good friends. The third patient for an ICU nurse in a couple weeks. People that you and I know keep dying. Our friends keep losing the people they love and care for.

It doesn’t, and it won’t, stop.

I acknowledged to a family the other day, that even if I had the why, in that moment that meaning would not be helpful. That family would rather have their dad than a lesson someone can learn, her husband means more than a deeper understanding of something.

Because at that moment, at those moments, we don’t want to know we’ll learn something. We want someone, everyone, to acknowledge that this is hard, that this person is deeply loved, that it is still too soon.

I say that because I asked a bunch of people who lost a loved one what they wished someone would do after their loss and many said, “acknowledge the loss.” And many said that they wanted that, or valued that, in the days and weeks and years after their loved one died.

Most people (or you) want the life of their (your) loved one to be acknowledged. You want your loss and the work ahead to be acknowledged. Not necessarily solved, since a death is a problem to be solved. Not explained or excused or minimized. Acknowledged.

(Unless, of course, that person was abusive. But sometimes in those situations, a person wants the loss of what could or should have been to be acknowledged.)

In some traditions, next Tuesday (11/1) is All Saints Day, and Wednesday is All Souls Day. Whether or not you honor those days, I’d like to suggest that we remember our friends who have lost loved ones recently with a simple “I’m thinking about you these days.” You can do more, of course. But simply remembering and being remembered is significant.


This is Hard: What I Say When Loved Ones Die is still my most helpful suggestion of what to say when we don’t know what else to say. You may find it helpful, too.