What NOT to Say to Someone Grieving A Pet



When I was in college, my then boyfriend and I had a dog named Murry. Murry was a black lab rescue. She was a she with a cool guys name.  She was our child. One day, Murry escaped her enclosure and ran in front of a car. Murry died.

I remember the days that followed I felt off and sad and tired.  I kept telling myself that she was just a dog, but she was a special dog and my boyfriend and I were grievig her loss.

If you are not a pet owner, this will most likely escape you, but none the less, here are five things NOT to say to someone greiving their pet.

Your job is not to judge how they feel, your job is to love them.

What NOT to Say to Someone Grieving a Pet!  Huffington Post


5 Ways to Love A Cancer Patient On Valentine’s Day!


Note: I use the pronoun “her” in most of my posts. I know men get cancer. My husband got cancer and died, so totally know that horror. However, most of the help cancer patients get seems to be from women.  It’s not the rule, just my experience.  So I address my posts to them.  Gentlemen, please don’t take this personally!


1.  Set-up a Phone-a-Thon  of Love.

Ask her friends to give her a call on Valentine’s Day to tell her how much they love her!  Feeling like Martha Stewart? Try to schedule the calls in chunks throughout the day…. with a morning call crew, an afternoon call crew and an evening call crew.

2. Invite Her to a Romantic Dinner…

with her friends!  Feature her favorite meal, candlelight, hearts, soft music and chocolates. (Make it dark chocolate for the health benefits!)

3. Make Her a Video

Make a video of a popular song but change the words so it’s about her.   Read her a poem (yours or someone else’s).   Get your kids (or hers) involved.   Have fun and show her how much you love her!

4. Send Her a Love Note….

from everyone.  Have her friends write one thing they love about her.  The way she’s so bossy (in  a nice way of course), her amazing ability to make others crack up at the wrong time, the way she tap dances on the desk at work,  or the fact that she brews the best damn beer in town!  Make her a plain ol’ simple card that says “We love you on Valentine’s Day because….” put the reasons on strips of paper so when she opens the card, they come tumbling out.

5.         Order A Valentine’s Day Astrology Guide to Choosing the Perfect Gift

Seriously, I found this link when I googled “cancer, Valentine’s gift.”  It was the 5th selection!  At $2.95, it’s sure to provide a giggle.  Besides, she can pick out what she wants from you next year! http://www.amazon.com/Cancer-Valentines-Day-Gifts/dp/B00138XNOI


Cancer is an excuse to tell her how much she means to you.

Take advantage of it.

Give Her Cash, Then Run Away …

I got this image from Newgrounds.com. To see what they are creating, click on the photo.   The caption on Newgrounds.com reads "Run away.  Run away fast." I love it!

I got this image from Newgrounds.com. To see what they are creating, click on the photo.
The caption on reads “Run away. Run away fast.” I love it!


  before she can give it back!

Cash is great for two reasons.

  1. Your friend will use it.
  2. If she really needs it, she will hopefully only put up a little fight before moving on and keeping it.

You can mail it (I know it’s not secure, but the odds are in your favor), slip an envelope in her mailbox, or give it to another friend to hand off. This is a fun way to help someone!

Cash in the wallet gets spent.

A story. When Art was sick the first time, I received $10 in the mail with a little note from an anonymous person.   It read:  “I’m sorry I can’t give you more than this, but I wanted you to know that I care about you, Art and the kids and want to help just a little.” I felt so loved and NOT alone afterwards.

It’s not the size of the wad that counts.

5 Things NOT to Say to A Cancer Patient


1. “Well, at least….”

“Well, at least it’s not the bad kind of cancer.”

“At least you will loose weight!”

“At least you look good bald.”

When people said that to Art, he shared with me that he said in response, in his head, “Well at least I can see what an asshole you are!”

Why you shouldn’t say “Well, at least…”

  • It’s dismissive of the cancer patient’s feelings – the terror, discomfort and fear.
  • It’s dismissive of the cancer patient’s courage. Dealing with cancer takes a lot of energy and fortitude.
  • It shows you to be a not caring person. Sorry but there it is.  If you  just stop and think about the words that are coming out of your mouth and the meaning behind them, it sounds like you are  working to not be touched by the cancer patients situation, to in effect, not care.

2. “This is part of God’s bigger plan.”

Well then screw God’s plan!  I believe in God.  Many cancer patients do to. However, when in the middle of hell, God’s plan sucks.  God is love, not suffering and pain. God’s plan is not cancer.

3. “Your situation makes me see what a good life I have.”

While the cancer patient is probably glad that you are finally grateful for the good life you have, comparing your life to her crappy life right now is not flattering.  All you’re doing is affirming how shitty her situation is.  Do you like being called fat when you are already feel gross and fat?

4. “You don’t get more than you can bear.”

There are many, many, many, many moments in a cancer patients life when they don’t feel like they can bear any more of what they are dealing with. There were many mornings when I was lucky enough to hold my big, emotionally fierce,  6’6 husband as he cried unsure if he could face another day.  And some days the only way he did was because of the  love and support  we surrounded him with. We beared it together.  That statement means you have no interest in being part of that group.

5. “My niece, mother-in-law, brother, cousin, co-worker, neighbor had cancer and she/he is just fine now!”

Honestly, most times the cancer patient doesn’t really care about your niece, mother-in-law, brother, cousin, co-worker, neighbor who had cancer.  Your friend is in the trenches NOW!  Having no energy and no eyebrows sucks NOW.  This statement does not motivate the cancer person. What can, is talking to someone who has gone through cancer  So unless your niece, mother-in-law, brother, cousin, co-worker, neighbor who had cancer is willing to talk about their experience, honestly and openly, this is not a helpful statement

Look, finding out someone you care about has cancer is really tough. It plays with your mind and brings up feelings around such easy-to-think-about topics such as …. mortality and death. These topics often put us in fear making it easy to say the wrong thing. So….

SAS it!: 3 Steps to Say the Right Thing.

Step 1

STOP. Pause. Take a breath. This single breath could mean the difference from a friendship continuing or one ending. Finding out someone you know has cancer is like being slapped in face. It’s surprising, it takes your breath away, it’s unsettling. Take a moment to take it in and feel.

Step 2.

ASK. Why do you feel the need to speak? Are you uncomfortable? Afraid to look bad? Have been told that you need to say something? (Not a good place speak from) Or do you feel this out pouring of love that makes you want to cry? (A good place to speak from). Ask yourself, what would I want someone to say to me if I had cancer? Be honest, none of this tough macho, “I wouldn’t want anyone to say anything to me” crap.

Step 3.

SPEAK. Say, “I’m so sorry.” Say “I love you.” Say “ I can….”  and finish the sentence with a specific kind of help you can offer. But speak from a place of love. Can’t manage it? Then just stick to I’m sorry. That’s good enough.

Help Her with Her Taxes

Forms 1040 pile high on a scale at an IRS processing office.

Forms 1040 pile high on a scale at an IRS processing office.

No one’s really fund of doing their taxes…that includes cancer patients.  So…

Help Her Do Her Taxes

5 ways you can take action.

  1. Find a preparer that is super familiar with all the kinds of medical tax deduction she can take.
  2. Help her gather and organize her receipts.
  3. Prepare a list of the kinds of deductions she can take in 2014.
  4. Find, scan and summarize information from websites regarding cancer and taxes.    For starters go  here (Livestrong) or here (Huff Post Money.) (NOTE: I did not say, send her the links!  She is already in over her head. Sending her a link to another website that she has read is NOT helpful. If she requests it fine, but if not, do the work for her. THAT is what being helpful is about.  Suggestions don’t count in cancer!)
  5. Do them for her. If you are a tax preparer yourself, do her taxes for her and let her focus on more important things.

Warm Her Heart, Pay Her Heating Bill

From Dr. Energy Saver.

From Dr. Energy Saver.


Staying warm cost money!

Record lows are being set on the east coast. Shelters have been set up for the homeless so they do not die of hypothermia.  Schools have been closed.

Did you know that it was projected that it would cost roughly $2651 to heat by oil this winter season?  (According to Short term Energy Outlook, January 2012. (Table WF01) Prepared by the AARP Public Policy Institute, January 2012)

That’s $662.75 a month for four months!!!

Electric and natural gas were projected to cost about $120 a month for four months.

No matter how your friend with cancer heats his or her house, if she has a limited income,  heating her place can be chilling! (pun completely intended)

Pay her heating bill for one month.

And warm her soul as well as her home.



#7 of 7 Ways to Usher A Friend With Cancer Through the Holidays

Photo: David Zellaby via Flickr Featured on Sherri Cassara Designs -- She had some great Christmas decorating ideas!

Photo: David Zellaby via Flickr 

Help take down the holiday decorations

When your friend is dealing with cancer or loss, the only thing more stressful (sad, heart wrenching, __________  put your own word here) than putting up the holiday decorations is taking them down and storing them for the next season.

Offer to lend a hand when the holidays are over.   Do your part to help her put the decorations away in hopes of a saner, happier and healthier holiday season next year.


Don’t wait for her to ask.

PS.  This photo was featured on this site by Sherri Cassara Designs. She had  some great Christmas decorating ideas…for next year.


What Your Friend with Cancer Really Wants for the Holidays

“Rarely, if ever does an empathetic response begin with …. at least

This video is for Upworthy a most excellent site that offers videos that make you go hmmmm!

The original video, by the RSA, features the voice of the incredible Dr. Brené Brown and the animation of Katy Davis (aka Gobblynne). The excerpts are from Brown’s full-length speech “The Power of Vulnerability.” Want to see more? Check out her genius TED talk.

#6 of 7 Ways to Usher A Friend With Cancer Through the Holidays

from Tongue In Cheek: Storied collected while living in France.  Ooo, la, la!

from Tongue In Cheek: Storied collected while living in France. Ooo, la, la!









Help Her Wrap Gifts

Art introduced me to a life changing gift wrapping technique. Gifts from Santa come unwrapped. Gifts from others come wrapped. With three children, this meant that he and I had more time to snuggle on Christmas Eve!  (Miss you so much, Sweetheart.)

But alas, even if your friend has the same system, it still leaves wrapping to be done.

Go to your friend’s house prepared with paper, tape, scissors and bows.

Bring tea,

wrap and


Wrap her in your love.


One Year Is Not Enough






I have Sandy Hook on my mind.

I remember one year after Art died expecting him to walk in the front door. Crazy.  But it was in mind the whole time, leading up to April 16, 2010, hidden in the logic of death.

I could see him in his button down shirt, his tan slacks, his computer bag slung over his shoulder. I would hear his keys jingle as they went into the door. He’d open the door and Pallas would jump up and run to greet him. She’d say “Daddy!” And he’d say “Hi Pallas.”  I knew in the silence that followed, he was bending over, wrapping his left arm around her and scooping her up. I would hear the key draw open, his keys drop into the basket and his bag thump on the floor.

I could feel him coming back after he died. I swear I could actually feel him.  I could see him too; healthy and whole,  all 6’6” 230 magnificently handsome pounds of Art.

By April 17,  he hadn’t shown up.  And what I remember thinking was
one year is not enough to get ‘over’ this.

One year is not enough time to say good-bye,
a life-time might be.

One year is not enough time to get ‘”over”,
The loss morphs and settles, but there    is   no    over.  

One year is not enough time to move on.

One year is not enough time to feel better.

One year is not enough time to get back to normal.
There       is       no          back.

One year is not enough time for the help to stop.

One year is not enough time to get used to the surprising realizations that he is never, ever coming back.

One year is not enough time to get used to the horrible, empty sobs that come after that thought.

One year is not enough time to quench my desire to hear all the stories you have about him.

One year is not enough time to grieve.

And yet, we, as a collective society, expect us, those who have lost, to pull ourselves together and to move on.  There is something you need to know….

Every day
that we
get up,
we move on.

A decision is made to move forward when our feet touch heavily on the floor. While it may not be a big deal to you, it is a very big deal to us because many days, putting our feet anywhere feels impossible.

For the Sandy Hook victims (and all parent who have lost their children to violence)

One year is not enough time to forget that your child was shot.

I am pretty sure a life time doesn’t seem long enough either.