It has been five months since I lost my beloved father, Heron Ocampo (pictured), after a very long battle with severe arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.
I cannot believe it has been so long. It seems that only a few days ago I was able to kiss his forehead. I still feel his presence around me when I need him, and I talk to him everyday. Thank God I still have my Mom to take care of. Although she also suffers from dementia, she still knows who I am, and can express her love for me....most days.
I never really knew what to say to someone when they lost a loved one. Then my brother Roberto Efrain died suddenly of a heart attach at only 52 years of age.
Most people offered their condolences to my parents and his widow. Many people seemed to ignore my pain. But a few of my friends came to me and just held me. I found that very comforting.
When my Dad passed away in early September last year, everyone came to me to extend their sympathies.
While I completely understand and appreciate their efforts of support at this, the most difficult time in my life, some of the things said made no sense, and some were even a bit (unintentionally) hurtful.
Here are some ideas, for the next time you have to give your condolences to someone:
Do not say: "Well, he had a long life." My Dad was almost 88 years old, but who are we to judge what is long enough? Maybe I'm selfish, but I'd wish he had many more years with me!
Do not say: "He's in a better place," or "God needed him in heaven." Unless you are a member of the clergy, this is not very comforting.
And unless you have actually lost your father or mother, please do not tell me "I know how you feel" - even if you've lost a very dear person, everyone grieves in different ways.
And please, do not tell the grieving person to be strong! Believe it or not, it is OK to cry and grieve, and be in pain for such a great loss.
What I found most comforting were phrases like this: "I will keep your Dad and your family in my prayers." "Let me know if there is anything I can do to help." "Please feel free to call me anytime if you need to talk." "I'm very sorry for your loss; I don't know how you feel, but I want you to know I care."
You can also share a good memory of the departed with his family; even a funny story will probably make them feel good.
If you still don't know what to say, or feel uneasy, just give the grieving person a nice, long, caring hug. Sometimes this act is better than a thousand words.
Again, this is definitely not meant as criticism to anyone; just some simple suggestions based on my own, very personal feelings.
It has been five months; I'm very lucky and blessed to have the love of my husband; but sometimes I still need the loving support of my friends. So don't forget to stay in touch!
Te extra??o mucho, Papito!
Edie J. Adler:
Edie J. Adler is a freelance writer and commediane, and a regular contributor to LatinoLA. She lives in the Valley with her husband Neal, and their three dogs, four birds and four and half cats.