What should you say to a grieving friend? What shouldn’t you say? Finding the right words may be so hard that you decide to send a sympathy card. “Well, that’s done,” you mutter to yourself.  Later, though, you may wish you had talked to your friend face-to-face. Of course, this isn’t always possible.

Instead of sending sympathy cards, I send bereaved friends a grief affirmation book I wrote several years ago. The gift is always welcome. One friend wrote such a beautiful thank-you note that I cried. In addition to writing grief recovery books, I give talks about affirmation writing.

A few weeks from now I’m giving a webinar about affirmation writing as a grief healing step. The webinar closes with ideas for applying affirmations to daily life. When I wrote the script for my webinar, many ideas came to mind, including the idea of Hope in a Jar. Things in jars are popular right now. You can buy cookie mix in a jar, cake mix in a jar, or keep a Happiness Jar, an idea that comes from author Elizabeth Gilbert.

Why not Hope in a Jar? It is easy to make. Get a Mason or Ball jar with a lid. Write one-sentence affirmations, save them on your computer, and print out the file. (You may also hand-write affirmations.) Cut the affirmations into strips and put them in the jar, with the print facing inwards. Tie a bow around the top and affix a tag that says, “Hope in a Jar. Read one a day.”

You don’t have to be a writer to create the jar. Only a few things are needed—motivation, a computer keyboard, or paper and pen. I recommend one-sentence affirmations because they are easy to write and remember. Write affirmations that comfort you. To get you started, here are a dozen affirmations I have written.

  • Every so often I call time out and take a break from grief.
  • Instead of pain leading me, I lead the pain.
  • Happy memories of my loved one are comforting.
  • Slowly, surely, I’m a creating a new life for myself.
  • Getting better! I can talk about my loved one without crying.
  • Well-meant advice doesn’t always have to be followed.
  • In defense, I’ve prepared answers to the question, “How are you?”
  • With every breath I take, I’m thankful for the gift of life.
  • Quiet time is part of each day, a time to rediscover myself.
  • I keep my loved one close by living her (his) values.
  • Sometimes I just want to be alone and that’s o.k.
  • My life is what I make it.

You can fit 60 affirmations or more in a jar. When you create this gift for a bereaved relative or friend, in a sense, you’re creating a gift for yourself. Writing affirmations changes your thinking from negative to positive. What’s more, writing makes you aware of your own grief journey, and the progress you’ve made. Although your progress may be measured in baby steps, it is still progress.

Simple as the idea sounds, Hope in a Jar can have a significant impact on the recipient and you. It’s hope that keeps us going!

Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

More Articles Written by Harriet