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Mobolaji Olorisade: How to Console Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One

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When a friend/family loses a loved one, a lot of people never know what to do.

During the holidays, I met up with a family friend and she asked, “Did T send his condolences after your mum died?”

I replied, “no.”

She then added, “He told me he didn’t know what to say.”

I laughed.

I heard that a lot from people who never reached out to me when my mum passed. I’m not mad at (most of) them. I know that sending your condolence to someone is one of the weirdest things to do.

What do you say? How do you say it? Will you hurt them more if you don’t say the right thing? Is it ok to visit? What time do you call?

I don’t have all the answers, but a few things stood out for me during my time of deep pain and loneliness after Mum’s death. Or let me rephrase, few people stood out for me during that time and I’ll be forever grateful for the things they did to let me know that they were “there.”

And that’s number one.

Be there! In my case, it was interesting to find that it was the people I least expected that reached out to me the most (expectations kills. guys). The best friend came to my sister’s house (where I was at the time) every day of that week. Most times, we didn’t even talk much, but her presence, the fact that she was there in person (though she could have been anywhere else that week) meant and still means a lot to me.

You’re probably asking, what if they don’t want to see anyone at that time? Then do the next thing.

Call or at least text.

Let me tell you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to say, you better call or text them. If you can’t be there physically, this is the least you can do. When my mum passed, I received so many calls and texts from my church family. In fact, I became friends with few people from church because of this. There were people that weren’t particularly close friends with me but still decided to let me know they were thinking about me at that trying time.

I remember resuming work and asking one of my colleagues why she never called me (almost everyone else had) and her excuse was that she didn’t know what to say. This hurt because it came from someone I considered a friend at work, but I let it slide (really, no one actually owes me their condolence).

If you have their phone number, I’ll advise you actually call or text them, rather than send an Instagram DM. It shows that you made an extra effort.

Send food
As silly as this sounds, it worked for me. I didn’t even know that this would mean anything until two of my friends sent me food at work. One was a plate of jollof rice and juice, the other was a box of cupcakes. They couldn’t come for the burial, they couldn’t be there physically too, but they took the initiative to send me something to ‘represent’ them. As I think about it now, I still want to thank them. It meant and still means so much to me.

If you don’t know what to do, you can send food (well prepared) or any other thing you think the friend or family would like. Add a small note of encouragement, but don’t let that week or month pass by without doing or saying anything. If you claim to be friends or family, it’s not enough excuse to say you didn’t know what to do.

Send money
Burials are expensive. Everyone in the family starts pulling funds together to bury their loved one in the most appropriate way. I got money from my church, my office, and a few friends. It may seem like what you want to send isn’t much in the scheme of things, but if you can, send them money. The little you send, plus the little another person sends, will add up to much for the burial plans. In Nigeria, no one really sets aside money for these kinds of things, and you don’t want them to have to worry about financial constraints while also dealing with their heartache.

This just says, “I am thinking of you. I may not be able to give more than this, but I want it to be clear that I have you on my mind in these trying times.”

Pray
Yup. How can you forget to pray for them? Losing a loved one is one of the most devastating things that can happen to anyone. It’ll be one year in May and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that my mum isn’t here. Uphold them with your prayers. Pray for comfort. Pray for strength. Pray for the grace for them to live above the pain; because that pain has drowned some people and they’ve never been able to recover.

I love doing this. Helping people see the need to navigate life when death shows up. Most people never know what to do in such cases, but these things will go a long way in consoling a friend or family. At least, they did for me.

Oh and finally, if you can make it, try to attend the burial. Try your possible best to be there. A friend came all the way to Ikorodu from the Island and still had to leave for work that morning.

My colleagues took some time off work to make it. My friend from JSS1 surprised me by finding her way there. My best friend sat right in front of the church with me and kept asking, “How do you feel? Are you ok? How do you feel?” I felt devastated. I felt like the best person in the world had left me. I felt like my life would never be back to normal. I felt excruciating pain. But because these people were there for me in one way or the other, I knew that I could take life a day at a time and that I was going to find purpose in my pain.

Now, I know I have them in my corner for life.

Love and light,
Mobolaji

P.S: If you’ve ever lost a loved one, what did people do to console you and which of those actions still stands out for you?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Mobolaji Olorisade is a creative who thoroughly enjoys writing. She works as a Communication and Marketing Lead and recently started @WritersNeeded, a writing services and communication company to help professionals and organizations thrive. You’ll often find her hidden thoughts on omobolaji.com.

9 Comments

  1. GraceOfGOD

    January 15, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    @Mobolaji Olorisade,

    Good day DEAR Mobolaji ,
    first and foremost I am really SORRY about your LOSS. Mothers are SPECIAL BEINGS so it must be VERY PAINFUL to lose them. May GOD grant you the STRENGTH to overcome this. Your PRECIOUS mother is gone but she is still LIVING in you with ALL the BEAUTIFUL memories and her LEGACY. THANK YOU so much for this article, it did TOUCH my soul. Have a blissful day and stay BLESSED 🙂

  2. Ajala & Foodie

    January 15, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    There are people that STOOD by us when we lost our sister. That will forever have a place in our hearts. Like the author’s experience it was people you least expect. A few cousins of ours, one worked overnight then travelled hours by train to go see my sister before the plug was pulled. Then took the train back and had to go back to work. A couple of cousins we had not seen or spoken to in years picked myself and my sister from the airport, they live hours away from the airport and where my late sister lived and was laid to rest but they brought us food EVERY DAY we were in town for her funeral. People we had not seen in years came out to help ensure my sister had a honorable funeral.
    Personally, I got tired of having to respond to texts and return phone calls. We were not only dealing with the grief , you are dealing with funeral arrangements in our case in a different country, and what that financially entailed. Responding to texts and phone calls became tiresome to be honest and yes, I felt and still feel obligated to respond to well wishes. I also understood they all meant well so even more pressure to respond.

    • AN

      January 16, 2019 at 9:23 pm

      Wow

  3. Nkem

    January 15, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Great write up. I was one of those people that never knew what to say when people loose their loved ones. I would just call or text and do no more. When i lost my younger brother a little over a year ago my world crashed. I felt like i had lost my best friend and confidante. During that time one my very close friends never visited me or called – i couldn’t believe it. I expected her to do more. She did not even attend the burial or wake keeping. I was in shock at her response. Just like you the people i did not even expect were there for me. Some visited and stayed the whole day, sent food, flowers and money. I was overwhelmed. My relationship with her became strained and when we eventually talked about her actions she told me she did not know what to do at the time. From that experience i realized as humans we can do more than call or text when our friends loose their loved ones.

  4. Victor Adegoke

    January 15, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    Very informative.

  5. Blackbeauty

    January 15, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Well, you never really know what to say but if you value your relationship with the person, you must call or visit.
    Sit there and say nothing, give a hug, pray with the person. And if you can go more than once, it’ll get easier.
    When my friend lost her mother, the first visit was tough. I had no words, was fighting tears as she was still numb herself. But by the 3rd visit, we were sharing funny stories about her and simultaneously laughing and crying.
    It’s been 7 years and I still miss her. She was truly rare gem.

  6. Ogee

    January 16, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I can totally relate to this post lost my mum over a year ago and everything really changed, I felt lost,so hopeless and I had more responsibilities as the first child . I keep saying God sent me angels in human form because, he built such a solid support system for me, My bestie stayed in my house for 2 weeks which I would never be able to pay back. I realized that God blessed me with some really kind people I mean , the love they showed me was immeasurable.

    Some people weren’t there , somehow I learnt not to hold a grudge because not everyone can be there for you. A close friend of mine didn’t talk to me for a while when I asked she said she didn’t know what to say, I was hurt but i let it go .

    This loss really changed my life in an un-explainable way but I am so thankful for the people I have around me .
    I had friends come to my house after work and stay for long hours to be sure my family was okay. A lot of people came in with food some people gave me cash gifts which went to the burial preparation. 3 of my closest friends came to the east to stay with me during the burial,this made me so happy although I was in pain . I think it is important to let people know you are there for them,even if you don’t have the right words to say

  7. boladale

    January 16, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    When I lost my mum, some people got me annoyed. If you don’t know what to say to someone that is bereaved, just go there sit for a while and leave.

    Can you imagine, some people said, she is old now, why are you crying like that? I felt like hitting them.

    Do they know how my mother raised us alone without our father’s assistant just because we are girls?

    Though some people stood by me and sisters. I wished my mother stayed a bit longer.

  8. Opeyemi

    January 16, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Hi Mobolaji. I lost my dad sometime in December. The thing is that I grew up with him majorly as he and my mom had been separated for over 14 years so his death was really tough on me. I am yet to get over the shock. I didn’t see him before he was buried because of the circumstances surrounding his death. I am grateful to most of my friends for being there for me via calls and texts. A couple were also able to come visiting. I would never be able to just ignore anyone that loses a loved one because I know what that agony feels like now and I hope to be a source of comfort when people around me need one. I appreciate your posts.

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