Dear Annie: This is in response to “Confused and Hurting,” whose 18-year-old son had taken his life. The family felt the community was snubbing them, as well as their sixth-grader.
When my brother died from AIDS 20 years ago, few people in our small town acknowledged his death. My parents were from a generation that didn’t openly discuss their gay children. But I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper explaining that, yes, my brother was gay, and no matter the cause of his death, we still loved him and mourned his death.
When the paper came out, my parents and I received dozens of phone calls and sympathy cards from friends and even strangers expressing sorrow for our loss. My parents were so grateful for all the support. I think a lot of good people truly didn’t know what to say. I also think the loss of a young man by suicide is so tragic that people have no idea how to comfort his family.
So, readers, if you know this family or any family in this situation, please express your love, caring and sorrow for the loss of their family member. – Feeling Your Pain
Dear Feeling: Our readers have been so kind in their compassionate responses to this grieving family. Most agree that they aren’t being shunned. People simply do not know how to behave and are worried that expressing sympathy will only remind them of their loss.
New York: Could you suggest an appropriate opening comment for those of us who don’t know what to say?
Dear New York: Everyone handles grief differently. Some families want to talk about their child; others aren’t quite ready. Simply say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Ask whether they want to talk about it, and then listen. If you have a story about their child, ask whether they’d like you to share it. (If not, write it down and share it later.) Then offer to help in a concrete way. The important thing is to be there.
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