The topic of death makes most people uneasy. When it is the death of a child, even more so. It’s no surprise that knowing what to say in those moments is rare. We all tend to go with the standard, “I’m so sorry for your loss”. It’s just what you say.
This is a topic I wish I knew nothing about. When Cameron died, the “I’m sorries” flowed. I can’t tell you how many times someone would say they just had no words. They are right. Words don’t exist for these situations. They shouldn’t have to.
What I’ve come to find over the last 6-weeks is that these are the times you really figure out who your people are. Those that will walk beside you in your darkest moments. Those that are really paying attention and will throw you a life line, even when you don’t want one. Those that really have your back. Most importantly, those that get past the uneasiness of not knowing what to do…and actually do.
It will surprise you! The people that make your top 10 list of greatest supporters. They are not always who you would expect them to be. That’s OK. What you have to remember is that those around you are trying. They are doing the best they can. It’s difficult for them too, just in a different way.
So I thought I’d share with you the condolences that really stood out to us. I’m not including the standard flowers, cards, or monetary donations. While those are much appreciated, I wanted to share those that really made an impact. Not your typical expression of sympathy. My hope is that it will help you know what to say or how to support your loved ones in the future.
4 Most Meaningful Condolences
- Words – This is the easiest! All it takes is some time on your part, assuming you actually knew the person they lost. For me, the most important thing was capturing every thing about him! I not only wanted my own memories. I wanted to pull Cameron out of every single person that met him and hear specifically what they will remember.Spend some time really thinking about specifics. “I remember when” stories or “I will never forget” stories. Things that really let them know that you will never forget the person they lost. Believe it or not, that means more than anything! Knowing that he will remain alive not only in my heart and mind, but in yours.
Some of my favorite memories so far:
– Dance parties – Blasting the music from his Sponge Bob CD player. How Taylor Swift’s RED album will always make her think of Cameron. He loved those songs.
– A go-cart ride he took her on. They were going so fast she remembers thinking they were going to wreck.
– His “goat boy” giggle.
– Playing Mario and getting yelled at because they missed a coin.
– I like when he bounced me on the see-saw.Write a few of your memories in a note or into a card. Every specific memory that has been shared with me has brought a smile to my face.
- Keepsakes – The things that mean the most are the things that are all about Cameron! We’ve had some really thoughtful gifts. Things that will hold a very dear place in our heart as we move forward.
Personalized wind chimes – My cousin and her family sent us wind chimes. They are personalized with a message and Cameron’s name.
Memory Book – I have a memory book that I’ve started. One of my very best friends ran with my desire to capture everything that is/was Cameron. She knew it needed to be simple, easy to put together, and expandable. It’s a photo album. I have a stack of 3×5 inch note cards. Nothing fancy. As people have shared memories with me, each memory has been written on a note card. Those note cards are simply slid into one of the photo openings. I can read them anytime I want.
Personalized Book – One of my very best friends from middle school put together a book. Her message was simply to print and add Cameron’s photos. It was meant to be a way for us (and the girls) to remember him. The book is incredible! She was so creative. It was obvious a lot of thought and love went into building these pages that are so perfectly Cameron!
Handwriting Jewelry – There is nothing more special than a keepsake with someone’s handwriting. A few of my girlfriends from high school asked if they could do this for me. This is a gift I had featured in a past blog post about the best Mom gift ideas. My plan was to eventually have his handwriting done on a necklace. While we haven’t really seen each other in years, they reached out and asked if they could do this for me. All I had to do was send a photo of his handwriting. There was no pressure on timing.
- Food – This is probably a no brainer. In our first week, we barely ate anything! No interest in food. No feeling of being hungry. Food never even crossed my mind. I actually dropped 5 pounds in those first few days. It was probably a good thing we had family in town or my girls would have likely starved. Food was just the farthest thing from my mind.Here are just a few examples:The day of Cameron’s memorial, we had a knock on the door first thing in the morning. Panera Bread was at our door delivering a ton of food (bagels, salads, sandwiches). A friend and former co-worker had taken it upon herself to just send it. Amazing! One less thing to think about that day. We had breakfast and lunch options for those that came to help out.About a week later, I got a text message that a catering company would be calling me. A couple of former co-workers had arranged for us to have food delivered to make dinners easy for the next few nights. They finalized the menu and had everything done. No involvement on my part. Nothing I had to do except finalize the time and accept the food (well that and heat it up so we could eat it).
We’ve also had a couple of friends prepare meals for us. There was never a question of “can I”. They just did it and told me they were bringing it. No arguing. No putting the ball in my court.
Fast forward 1-month. We are eating. However, I’m not cooking. I’m still not really grocery shopping unless it’s a necessity (kids lunch, baby food, etc.). Someone reaches out and I think I’m getting 1 dinner delivered, she shows up with 9 freezer meals! Unbelievable. Such a blessing. No thinking about food. Simply throw one in the crock pot, dinner is ready.
- Outings and Plans – I’ve never really been good being the initiator of plans. If someone else takes the lead, I’m typically all in (will even help pull it off). Since Cameron’s passing, I’ve found that my inability to make decisions and initiate plans seems nonexistent. To be honest, I just don’t have the focus to follow things through. It literally takes every ounce of my energy and focus to just get through today…one moment at a time. Sometimes a distraction is really good medicine.The first week back to school, I was invited to meet for coffee (aka donuts as neither of us drinks coffee). Last week we had lunch. Both initiated by her as she’s been checking in on me. A good distraction. The bonus being another adult to talk to during the day.Since January, a new girls night tradition has started. It’s a group of Mom’s and teachers (we have the most amazing school). One of the Mom’s has just taken lead to initiate. The best part for me is this is a group of women that knew Cameron. He was a part of their lives (or their children’s lives). They aren’t afraid to mention his name or ask about him.So the message here is to initiate for them. Don’t put the ball in their court. Nothing will ever happen. If you want to have their other child over for a play date or meet up for lunch or plan an outing…do it! Just simply say, “I’d love to (fill in the blank). How would next Friday work?” Or whatever. Just take the ball and run with it.
Am I missing anything? Have you had a really meaningful or thoughtful expressions of sympathy when you lost a loved one?