By: Allyson England Drake, M.Ed, CT

I often am asked, by caring friends and family members, about the best ways to support an individual who is grieving the death of a loved one. I have a variety of practical answers, of course — like start a meal train, write them a handwritten note with your memories of their loved one, send them comforting items like a fuzzy blanket or candle, or donate to a charity in their loved one’s name.

But the suggestion that I emphasize over and over is for them to say the loved one’s name. Call them by name and do it often, especially on holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, and other significant milestones.

Too often, I hear from individuals who are grieving that they are so afraid that others will forget their child, brother, sister, mother, father, friend. The bereaved may envision that others will move on with their lives, and their loved one will be forgotten. This worry may cause a lot of hurt and heartache. Friends and family members may be afraid to say a loved one’s name for fear of hurting them with a painful memory or reminding them of their lost family member. And actually, it’s almost always the opposite.

Hearing a loved one’s name shows those who are grieving that they are not alone in remembering. Saying the loved one’s name, telling the stories, sharing pictures, and discussing all that we loved or admired about the person who died are actually some of the best ways to honor the individual who is grieving and their loved one.

It can be as simple as “I was just reminded of a conversation that (loved one’s name) and I had last year, and I’d love to tell you about it.”

Or “thinking of you today and knowing that you are missing (loved one’s name) so very much.” 

Those of us who are grieving feel the absence of our loved one most of the time. We must ask others to speak our loved one’s name because it will fill us with hope that they are not forgotten and help us as we heal.