Category Archives: grief

Journey through Grief Part 2 – Practical ways to help someone in mourning

I was working on a training online for Hospice and in the section “Grief and Bereavement” there were numerous good suggestions. I think most of us have said “I wish I could do something for their family while they are going through this”. It had some ideas and I’ll put some in here of my own.

This is not a complete list, so if you think of something, let me know. While this applies for everyone, I’ll also add in some thoughts for Public Safety deaths as well.

Sometimes in fear of “saying the wrong thing” we say nothing at all. In many ways this is just as harmful (if not more so). Don’t assume they know how you feel. Also do not assume that expressing how much the other person meant to you will make the situation worse. Listen to how they feel and let them do the talking first. Then you can say something that would be helpful.

The below sections are quoted from Practical Things to Say and Do When Someone Dies, Author Penny Halder. (Accessed 9/2/2013)

What to say/Not say

The best advice I ever received when trying to think of something to say when there really wasn’t anything to say was, “Simply say what you are feeling.” Try to put into words the pain and loss you are feeling your self rather than assuming what the other person is feeling. Let the survivor express his thoughts and feelings to you first. This gives him a sense that you are really listening and trying to understand. After you listen you will have a better understanding of how to respond. The following suggestions can be put in your own words.

o What a tragedy this is for you and your family.
o I heard about what happened and just had to come
o I hate it that this had to happen.
o How terribly hard this must be for all of you.
o I feel so bad about all the suffering (Name) had to go through.
o I was just shocked when I heard the news.
o I can’t imagine what you are going through.
o My heart hurts for all of you.
o Tears came to my eyes when I read the obituary.
o I feel just terrible about what happened.
o What an awful loss to our community.
o There’s a big hole now in my life.
o The world will never be the same without (Name).
o (Name) had such a great smile, personality etc. I will really miss him/her.
o I enjoyed working together with (Name). He always made the tasks easier, more fun etc.
o (Name) had such a wonderful way of making everyone he met feel special.
o I’m going to miss (Name) so much.
o I remember when…(happy memory here)

What can I do?

(Blogger’sNote)When people experience grief and loss, the shock and emotions they experience will make it more difficult to do normal tasks. So what they may need is someone who can perform the normal mundane tasks for them. First, before doing, ASK. The items below are good ideas, but they may not be needed. Ask what they need, and be PRACTICAL. This list is broken down in the stages of American funeral process.

o Washing the cars inside and out.
o Answering the phone.
o Polishing shoes
o Keeping track of children, driving them to lessons etc.
o Gathering information, (flight plans etc.)
o Picking up relatives from the airport
o Grocery shopping or other errands
o Caring for pets
o Bringing over snacks and/or a meal
o Staying at the home to receive gifts of food and/or flowers, recording who they are from

Additionally, these items may help.
o Offer to be their chauffeur.
o See if there are phone calls you can make for them. (This might be more suited for close friends)
o Coordinate the meals. A free service that is great is



o Rather than sending cut flowers to the funeral home, why not send a plant that can be replanted outside to your friends’ home?
o Choose a picture frame, figurine or piece of jewelry in memory of the loved one to give to your friend.
o Prisms that make rainbows throughout the room when the sun shines make a lasting gift of hope and beauty.
o Monetary gifts made to the designated memorial funds are greatly appreciated.
o Make up “quiet bags” for the young children. At visitations kids don’t have much to do. They don’t enjoy talking with relatives. You will be a hero to them and their parents if you provide a little relief. Buy a few inexpensive quiet toys for them to play with during those long hours. (Pad of paper and pencil, a small stuffed animal to hold for comfort, magnetic games or quiet contained puzzles, white boards.
o Make a memory book of blank pages that friends and family can fill in for a valued keep-sake. Ask people you see at visitation or at the luncheon afterwards to write their thoughts and memories. Make a pretty cover for it or use a fun photograph.
o Make a photo album of photos of you and your friend. Everyone appreciates photos of their loved ones.


o Offer to “house sit” during the visitation hours or the funeral where you can answer the phone and door. Keep good messages.
o Offer to coordinate the luncheon.
o Offer to clean up after the luncheon.
o Offer to sit with small children during the funeral at the funeral.
o Attend the visitation and offer a warm handshake or a hug.
o Bring a note with special memories and/or attributes of the person who died.
o Don’t be afraid to show your own tears. They show the survivors that you care too. Their loved one did not live in vain.
o When you help out by taking food, be sure to put your name and phone number on the container. Better yet, send it in a disposable container. (When preparing food, it would be especially thoughtful to consider any of the survivors who may be on a special diet). Also when you prepare food, choose something that will be especially comforting to eat like a hot noodle or potato dish.
o Offer to return food containers to their owners after the luncheon.
o Offer to bring the paper and plastic products for the luncheon after the funeral.
o Offer to bring more chairs if needed.


When someone dies, the mourners are often confused and hurt. They are experiencing a variety of feelings which make them feel especially vulnerable. It is best to not offer any explanations about the death, assume how they are feeling or even encourage them to look on the bright side. Let them take the lead with these thoughts. What they want most is to be accepted and given the right to express their thoughts and concerns without judgment. In time mourners can usually see past insensitive remarks to the heart behind the words. If you have said any of the following in the past, forgive yourself, knowing that you did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time. Your intentions came from a heart full of love. That’s what really counts. Vow to never say them again.

o It must have been his time. (most survivors are not ready to hear this yet-they are still wanting the person to be alive and with them)
o She lived a good life. (this does not give the survivor the room to have different feelings)
o It must have been God’s will. (This comment can cause anger toward God, pointing the blame and causing the survivor to feel guilty for being angry at a loving God.)
o If he wouldn’t have been out that late, he would be alive right now. (This comment is blaming the victim and not bringing comfort to the survivors.)
o She wouldn’t want you to be so sad. (People hurt when someone dies because they loved him/her. It’s natural and healthy to feel sad. None of us like to be told what or what not to feel.)
o When a child dies please don’t say, “You’re young, you can have more children.” (This comment minimizes the death. No child can ever take the place of another.)
o I know just how you feel, my dog died last month. (Most parents will in no way relate to that.)
o At least you have other children. (Again, there’s a hole that no child can replace.)
o It’s probably for the best. (A survivor is so overwhelmed with feelings of grief, that his comment is usually misunderstood.)
o God must have wanted a baby angel. (Parents cannot understand how God would want their child more than they do)
o I know just how you feel. (Even though you may have had a similar experience, you are not this person. There are multiple factors influencing each individual circumstance and therefore you cannot know how someone else is feeling.)
o Just keep looking for the positives. (A griever usually cannot be at this point in his mourning for many weeks following the death.)
o You just sit there and let me take care of everything. (Making decisions is helpful in the recovery process of grief-let survivors make as many as they can.) NOTE: While giving someone valium may sound like a good idea at the time, the drug or one like it can dull feelings that will still need to be dealt with eventually. It is important to a person’s well being that they are active participants with as sharp a mind as possible.

o Look at how peacefully she is sleeping. (Children take most things literally and may have problems sleeping because they believe that they may die in their sleep.)
o You must take care of your mom/dad now. (This is too much pressure on a child-they need to be themselves and mourn in their own way. No one else can take the place of another. A family needs to work together repairing the broken circle. In healthy grief, families need each other and support one another.
o No, you shouldn’t see (Name). It’s better to remember them the way they were. (This may be true for some children, but for others they need to see for themselves that the person is really dead otherwise they may continually look for them to come home.
o In the case of suicide, NEVER impose your beliefs or even suggest where their loved ones’ soul has gone even if you share the same faith. Suicide is cruel. Support your friend as if he has a broken limb. Don’t offer any opinions.

Quoted sections from Practical Things to Say and Do When Someone Dies, Author Penny Halder. (Accessed 9/2/2013)

Thoughts on a death notification

I’m writing about my first time doing a “death notification”. I will be withholding details as not to betray the confidence of those involved.

It was a normal morning on patrol, maybe too normal. Then a “possible dead body” call came in. The officer I was with asked “You wanna go?” It was out of out beat, but we asked. So we got clearance and made our way to the address.

So we run code all the way there. (I interrupt this blog for a commercial break.) GO RIGHT FOR SIRENS AND LIGHTS. Get OUT of the way. Sure, when we are blaring through the intersection, it makes you wait for an extra 10 seconds. But I think you would want everyone out of our way when we are coming to your house. Someone asked me before if it’s exciting to go that fast. Honestly, at first, I thought so. But then I saw how people freak out when you are coming. When you are driving 60 plus in a 35 and people refuse to yield and you have to go in opposing lanes of traffic, “exciting” is not the word I’d use to describe it. If it were up to me, I’d go back and look at the cruiser video and send a lot of people a little present in the mail, AKA a citation. So I was a little annoyed. Someone here is dying and we might be the difference between life and death. So move over. (Now back to my regular scheduled blogging.)

When we got there, the medics were trying their best to save the individual. But as most of you know, there comes a time when they have to stop. And that moment is heartbreaking, not just to the family, but to them. No matter how much air they pumped into those lungs, they were never going to breathe again. They informed me, and I began to advise the family that their loved one was dead. The family did not understand this (and usually will not, and that’s perfectly understandable), and it was heartbreaking. But they dealt calmly with the family and let me console and explain what was happening.

I’ve you have never been at this kind of scene, you have no idea just how much pain and emotion is expressed. And since people all express grief differently, you never truly know what to expect. You never can really prepare yourself for the most basic of life’s emotions, grief over a hard loss. I did my best to console the family. I did my best to explain why EMS had to stop. I did my best to explain why they could not go into the room with the body, still warm. But it’s hard. It’s hard to look at a spouse, with tears in their eyes (while fighting back your own) and state you can not let them in the room until it has been cleared by the Coroner’s office.

When the investigator from the Coroner’s office arrived, it was a relief, because I advised that soon we could let them into the room. To see a spouse lay in the floor next to their loved one, and put their arm around them and weep is a sight that could make almost anyone cry. I also must admit that I had to get some “fresh air” to avoid betraying my cool exterior.

After the dust settled and we left 3 hours later, and since then, I’ve had some time to think about the events of today. Here are a few tips in case you find yourself in that situation.

1. If you are a responder (Police, Fire, EMS, etc), you owe it to yourself to be prepared. Those people will need you. You can’t fail them. There are lots of articles on the internet so find them. If your state offers training, take it (For all you Ohioans, OPOTA offers it).

Death Notification:The toughest job in Law Enforcement
Death notification: Breaking the bad news

2. Be prepared. If you know in advance it’s a possibility, do what you need to do. Pray, listen to a song, have silence, whatever you need.

3. Understand that since everyone reacts in different ways, some may scream, some may deny, some may get violet. Remember, it’s NOT about you.
The 5 stages of grief
Grief – everyone’s response is different

4. Not only should you have someone do it with you, but have someone to talk to afterwards (Chaplain, pastor, etc).

A notification will most likely be draining, physically and emotionally. SO take a few minutes for you both before and after.

Funeral of Deputy Sheriff Suzanne Hopper

I just wanted to write a note about today’s events. I know it’s long, but it’s worth the read.It was an exhausting day, physically but more so emotionally.

I arrived at the Miami Township Police Department and was greeted my Major DiPietro. I went to the mall with Sgt. Nienhaus and we gathered there as a group before leaving. Met up with Mike Siney over there. We had somewhere around 75 cars there from various departments all over. I was already starting to feel honored just being in these people’s presence. A group of cops grieving and doing a mission of honor for a sister, and I was allowed to come along for the ride.

When we met up at the Navistar plant, only then did I realize the enormity of the support among her brothers and sisters in blue, most of who she never met or knew. Cops from all over the state. Later I’d find out, all over the country. We left there at 9:45 and took over an hour to get to the church, just a few miles away. Here is where the community support began to be noticed. Small children waving from car windows parked along the route. Businesses “Closed to Honor Deputy Hopper”. Veterans standing at attention saluting the procession. And hundreds of people waving at us from the side of the road.

Once we arrived at the church, to see the sea of officers in support of Deputy Hopper. Here is where I saw officers from the Chicago Police, Yonkers NY Police, Maryland and the Kentucky State police. The enormity of the moment began to set in on me. The first tears came here. Sheriff Kelly spoke magnificently, and did her son, and husband.

We waited outside to begin out journey to the cemetery. I talked to some of the guys from Huber Heights and Trotwood. Good to see familiar faces at such an event. Sitting in the parking lot in a sea of cars with lights flashing as the casket was brought out and as we followed one by one was a very moving experience. I can’t explain it to you. Watching the video won’t even give you the full affect. It took more than 2 hours to get to the cemetery. The route was lined with all sorts of folks out in the cold and snow holding up signs of support for the officers. The most moving part is the graveside ceremony. I was surrounded by a sea of blue.And felt the shot from the guns on the salute. And cried as the bagpipes played amazing grace.

I never knew (or met as far as I know) Deputy Hopper.But she knew about me. You know that from my previous note. But this was closer to me. She was one of my officers. Her loss caused some pain to me. Not like that experienced by family or the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. I can’t explain it to you. I can’t tell you how it feels. But these guys are my guys. And alot of the officers in the crowd had read emails from me. They wouldn’t recognize me, but they are my officers too. Pastor Pat has talked about Ministry in such a way that you have ownership over a city. That you feel it’s pain and that you hear it cry to you at night. These officers are that to me. I see them, hear them and feel the pain and sometimes frustration they feel. And when you stand and walk among them, it’s an indescribable feeling.

So I was taken back by the awesomeness of what I saw and felt today. It was good to see the support of a community, but why can’t they see that everyday, without the grief and loss? I also pray that I will never have to see it again. Their jobs are painful enough at times. Lets pray that they be spared form the grief again.

Just some things I’m thinking about.

Periodically I post a thought or two that I have. Tonight I gravitate to a thought I’ve been kicking around. I got a link about police suicide prevention. A suicide is seven times more likely than a Line of Duty death. I encourage any officer reading this note to watch the video. Know the difference between stress and trauma. And remember, it’s never bad to ask for help. This video was sponsored by Badge of Life.

Rascal Flatts video Why.

What a God we serve.

Just a short entry for today. I was going back over some of my notes and a couple of things stuck out to me:

Psalms 56:8 “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?”

To think that God, the creator, the all-sufficient one, the foundation and initiator of creation has a sepcial bottle that has all the tears that I have cried. That time that I thought I was so alone. That time that I was so hurt. When I scraped my knee when I was 6. When my grandmother died. All those times, even when I felt so alone, God was not only close enough to hear my prayers, but close enough to collect the very tears I cried and store them in a bottle. I fail to understand why anyone can love me that much. Especially God, who knows every thoght and intent of my heart. Then there’s:

Matthew 10:30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

At face value this verse is good. He knows that I have 51,634 hairs and that I shaved them this morning. But Mark Chironna pointed out that it isn’t so much that he knows the total quantity. He knows wich came in first, which came in last and all in between. He knows which hair is number 4923, who long it is and when it arrived.

For someone….anyone…to know me with that much detail, and still love me makes me want to know why.