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Dear Kiantha: Let grieving neighbor know you’re thinking of him

Dear Kiantha,

A longtime neighbor of mine is in the process of losing his wife to a terminal illness. I am not sure how to support their family as the wife is receiving end-of-life care. Would it be best to not bother them in this private time or would it be OK to offer them my support? I don’t want to be intrusive, nor do I want them to feel as if their neighbors don’t care.

Dear Friend,

There are moments in our lives when there are no right or wrong answers. Those times are always related to matters of the heart. Death and dying is a matter of the heart. Being born and end-of-life care are two of the most complicated moments assigned to us all.

Each of us will experience the glorious joy that comes with a child being born into this world, be it the birth of our own children or the birth of a family member or child of a friend. A new life brings opportunity, hope and promise. We share in this experience with our fellow humans around the world.

Equally, all of us will experience death and the sadness that comes with end-of-life care. The fragile moment when we realize that the time on this Earth as we know it is coming to an end.

Like you, we wonder what to do and how to support those who are dealing with death first. We find ourselves contemplating what is the appropriate way to respond and offer genuine support.

Because each situation is different, the best thing to do is to ask your neighbor if and how he and his family would like to be supported. This can be done by leaving a card on his door or in his mailbox, picking up the phone for a brief call or by sending a short text. What may also be helpful is to remember that it can be difficult for people to ask for help in critical moments like these.

Helping a neighbor in practical nonintrusive ways like raking the falling fall leaves off of their lawn or dropping off baked goods are small gestures that say, “I’m thinking of you,” without requiring the neighbor to participate in any way. Adding more to a grieving person’s plate should be avoided at all costs.

A handwritten note or card letting the family know that you are thinking of them in their time of need goes a long way. Remember, kindness and comfort are what the gesture should represent.

Always put yourself in their shoes and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Soul to soul,

Kiantha

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