How to Help a Friend Who Has Lost a Family Member Without Making Things Worse

Sooner or later you will need advice for helping a friend who has lost a family member- and when the time comes, this book is one of the best on the topic. The title sums it up well:
Don’t Ask for the Dead Man’s Golf Clubs – What to Do and Say (and What Not to) When a Friend Loses a Loved One.
This book by Lynn Kelly is written in short sections formed from interviews with those who have personal experiences with loss. I bought it when my friend’s father was dying of cancer, and my own father had been diagnosed with lymphoma. (And, no I didn’t ask for his golf clubs.) It was a great help.
Lynn Kelly covers what really eased the pain for people who had lost a loved one. It also covers very clearly what others said and did which brought more hurt to them. However, isn’t it better to know what not to say? Sometimes when friends experience a tragedy we say little or nothing, or even pull away, maybe telling ourselves that they need time alone to grieve. We may fear that we will say or do the wrong thing. This book helps solve these problems. You’ll know what helped others and read samples of what it is better not to say. You won’t leave your friend feeling abandoned.
One point that is covered well is that promises should be kept. The person may really depend on your taking their kids to an event now and then, if you said that you would, and the kids may really look forward to it. But sometimes promises like that are forgotten by the one who made them, disappointing the young person. It is not always 100% convenient to keep a promise but in this case it is much more important than usual.
Sometimes we think that the person who suffered a loss would prefer not to have the name of their loved one come up in conversations and random memories. Yet family members have not forgotten their loved one and never will. They generally don’t mind hearing good memories which include their loved one, and feel better knowing that someone else remembers them as well.
Some loses are within the range of events that we expect to happen sooner or later in life- such as the loss of an elderly parent. At those times we still need the encouragement and support of friends. However if a family member is lost “before their time” the remaining members need the support and care of friends even more — though friends might be more uncertain of what to say and do. This book covers these topics well.

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