When someone we care for loses someone they love, it’s difficult to know how we can help. Words don’t flow the way we intend, and despite our efforts to make them “feel better,” we just can’t.
When my fiancé and myself lost our daughter Lainey, we were beyond blessed to receive much needed support from loved ones in our community. We had fresh meals lined up for weeks after she had passed, enough money to purchase a beautiful headstone and friends/family who helped look after our other children.
If you’ve never lost someone you’re close to, you probably have no idea how to start helping. Know in advance, there is nothing you can do to take away their pain. However, there are plenty of ways you CAN help lighten their load in an extremely trying time.
What Can I Do?
1. Feed Them
This is a no-brainer and a HUGE help (hence, why it’s first on my list). Even though my appetite was pretty much non-existent due to the trauma of my loss, it was nice knowing nutritious food was just a microwave trip away from being ready.
Also, I cannot stress enough how important it is to bring kid-friendly food if they have children. One of my friends gave us an entire Rubbermaid container of mac and cheese, fruit snacks, crackers, diapers, etc. and it was one of the BEST things we received.
Even though I didn’t want to eat, my kids (obviously) still had to, and it was wonderful having easy food on-hand for them.
There was also a meal chain set up for us through a local church which lasted a couple of weeks. I was in no mood to be around other people during this time, so they kindly brought the meals to my mom and she brought them to us.
**Also, don’t forget breakfast! This takes a huge load-off in the morning, especially since other people don’t think to bring it.
2. Don’t Make Them Do Dishes
My most FAVORITE helpers were the ones who brought food in disposable containers. You people, are the real MVP!
I would go days without doing dishes and didn’t care, simply because I was too depressed to do so. We went months living off paper plates, plastic cutlery, plastic cups, etc., and I can’t imagine how much time we were spared because of this.
3. Give A Gift With Meaning
Let me start by saying, I LOVE flowers. If you’re reading this and you bought me flowers after my daughter passed away, thank you! It was lovely to feel your love in this way and it made her viewing/funeral beautiful.
But when I came home to a living room full of flowers that withered as the days went on, it was agonizingly painful. I can’t describe it as anything other than metaphorically seeing death all over again.
The gifts we received such as photo frames, meaningful canvases, and books warmed my heart and these items never go bad – I can treasure them for years to come.
4. Offer to Babysit
There were some occasions where I needed time to grieve my loss alone, without my living children wondering why mommy’s crying again.
If you are granted time with their little ones, take them to do something fun! Chances are they’ve been living in a less than cheerful environment, engage in something positive to help brighten their little spirit.
5. Listen To Hear Not To Respond
You know that awful feeling when you’ve said the wrong thing to someone who’s mourning the loss of a loved one? That’s because there is nothing to be said which could make the hurt less painful.
Perhaps, this is what makes death so difficult and uncomfortable to talk about to begin with.
But, guess what? You don’t have to say anything. The silence can be awkward and uneasy, yes. But it’s not as uneasy and awkward as saying the wrong words to someone who is already hurting. A little bit of silence is okay.
If you can’t do anything else, listen to them. Let them cry and talk about it over and over. Reliving the moment is their minds way of processing it’s most recent trauma.
6. Remember Important Dates
The people who remember my daughters birthday/death date, hold an incredibly special place in my heart. It takes little effort; a card, text or a phone call.
And, I promise it will mean the world!
*Put a reminder in your phone so you won’t forget!
7. Realize Time Does Not Heal All Wounds
It’s so easy to think someone is doing better because time is moving on. But just because the clock is still ticking and someone isn’t a full-on emotional basket 24/7, doesnt mean the hurt isnt still present and very real.
Remember, there is no time limit on grief.
Be mindful of their loss and the feelings associated with loss for the weeks, months and years to come.
8. Clean Their House
Ask if there is anyway you can be of assistance around their house. I’m a little anal about other people cleaning my home. But in this case, I allowed a couple of trusted people in to help out, because I physically couldn’t do it myself.
9. Don’t Expect Anything In Return
I dreaded writing thank you cards because no words seemed right. Yes, I was grateful – but I didn’t want to keep writing about my loss.
I wrote 75 thank you cards, all of which were written in long font to fill the blank spaces. I didn’t know what to say and it was too painful. I’ll always remember the people who should have received a hand-written card and didn’t. I hope they know just how grateful I still am, despite my lack of expressing it in written form.
The grief process is long, messy and hard. It drains a person to their core and can make them feel vulnerable and alone. Be the difference in this difficult time, step up and lend a hand in whatever way you see fit!
I promise, they WILL remember you for it.