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Several months ago, I wrote a post about my latest volunteer work for Cornerstone Hospice: making bereavement calls to check in on the people who were left behind, and I was a bit nervous about it. After all, to one degree or another, these people were experiencing grief and loss, and the last thing I wanted to do was to increase their suffering.
I had two possible ways to communicate with them. If I reached them on the phone, I would ask permission to ask a handful of questions about how they were doing; by asking them, I put them in charge of our discussion. Although I anticipated that the conversation might be trying, I found that I could trust my instincts, and although some people were quite reserved, others opened up and shared the life and death experience with their loved one. Some conversations were brief, and others were extended and very sweet.
Instead of the conversation being the hardest part of connecting with the bereaved, however, I found that leaving a voicemail was even harder than I had expected. In only 20 or 30 seconds, I wanted to make those moments comforting and helpful. I wanted to sound authentic and not like a recording. I wanted to sound sincere and empathetic. I wanted to communicate my genuine care for them.