Well hello there faithful readers! Penny here! 

I have something to share with you- a confession of sorts. I don’t write my advice column alone. I receive your questions; look them over for appropriate material and then I call my mom. After she hems and haws and accuses me, among other infractions daughters a want to commit, of only calling her when I need something, she settles in to listening to my readers questions and helping me formulate my responses. Truth be told, I call her mostly to make her feel needed, we all know moms like that sort of attention. All of this is good for you, really; this becomes a two-for-one deal.

But this week, when I called my mom, I couldn’t bear to bother her with anything. Last week, my mom’s best friend of 25 years passed away after a battle with breast cancer. Instead of answering one of your questions this week, I would like to take the time to answer my mom’s question. I hope, if you ever find yourself in the same situation, this helps you as well.

Dear Penny, 

My best friend, Colleen,  recently passed away from a four year long struggle with breast cancer. She was an incredible woman who was always there for everyone, who never complained, and whose strength was both physical and spiritual. We worked together, shopped together, dined together, watched Days of our Lives together and volunteered with the Children’s Cancer Foundation together. Penny, how do you tell well meaning friends, family and coworkers who constantly ask you how you are doing and if you need anything the truth? That what you really need is space and what you really want is to be allowed to grieve?

Thanks Penny,

Your Mother.

Dear Mom: 

First of all, let me tell you how sorry I am for your loss. I know that losing a friend is never easy.

Grief is a touchy subject. Everyone feels as though their thoughts and feelings on the subject are the correct ones. There are as many different ways to grieve and feel loss as there are fish in the sea. Your friends, family and coworkers all have their own opinions on what may help you; some may say you should take a day off, some may think you should work harder than normal. Some may want you to weep and wail, some may suggest that you are silent in your grief. The only right answer is what you feel to be right yourself. If you need space and time to consider your own feelings, you will need to be upfront with your friends. If going to work is a distraction for you, you need to tell your coworkers the truth.

Remember that people are asking you because they care. They care about you and they know how much you cared for your friend. Your response when you have been asked for the twenty third time today how you are doing with this can be as simple and as clear cut as the following:

“Jane, I am so thankful that everyone is concerned, but I just don’t know what to say. Thank you for asking.”

You may also ask your manager to let your coworkers know how you feel about being approached at work. A simple request like the following may serve you well:

  “Dear manager: Thank you for everything during this time. Please let everyone know I appreciate their concern, and that I am asking that my time at work can be devoted to work.”

Or, you can just print this article out and staple it to your cubicle wall. Everyone who loves you enough to want to know how you are will love you enough to respect your requests.

I hope this helps not only my mom, but any number of my readers who are also experiencing a loss.

Know someone who is struggling with a significant health challenge? www.caringbridge.org offers an easy, uplifting way to share news about your progress, give family and friends a way to express support, and connect with a network of survivors. It was an amazing blessing for my mom and many others who also loved her friend Colleen.

To make donations to the Susan G. Komen organization, click here.

To make donations to the Children’s Cancer Foundation, click here.


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