Another interruption in the current blog series to share an answer to a question I am asked frequently: "How can I support someone I know who is grieving?"
Do one of these, a combo of two or maybe these ideas will spark something just right for you. Whatever you do...do SOMETHING. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem to you, your action shows your person that they aren't alone, nor forgotten.
Not just typical lasagna (especially with little ones), some ideas include breakfast foods (e.g., cooked sausages, cinnamon rolls, hard boiled eggs), all the fixings for a sandwich bar, cooked hot dogs and buns with a plate of cut veggies/dip, fruits and vegetables already washed and ready to eat and any other snack type items. Just remember if there's a ton of prep involved it probably isn't going to happen. The food needs to be easy and ready to go. If your person isn't eating much, then protein shakes are a good option. (Ask around re: food allergies ahead of time too!)
**Deliver Household Necessities**
Seriously. Think of things like paper towels, trash bags, toilet paper, paper plates and plastic cups (cleaning falls off the top of the to do list because they are in survival mode), plastic cutlery, etc. In my life today I personally don't use paper products, but when I was grieving, I couldn't think about washing dishes. I needed tools for survival for my family. Other items may include cleaning supplies, laundry and dishwasher detergent, etc. If there are little ones in the house think ...diapers, formula, wipes, etc.
Feeding my kids was a daily chore on a whole new level after Michael died. One of the most helpful things I received from a colleague was a gift card to a restaurant. The accessibility of grabbing food for them and getting all of us out of the house was very helpful. Grocery store gift cards are also excellent.
QUICK NOTE: If the person you know is private and it seems they do not want visitors, you can send food and/or gift cards via online stores like Amazon. Get creative and have whatever you're offering sent directly to their home.
**Offer Your Time ----> Doing Specific Things**
If you just say, let me know what I can do...you know what you're gonna hear most likely? Radio silence. People in grief are not usually in a state of mind to verbalize what they need and many times there's the thought pattern that they don't want to be a burden on anyone. So think proactively about what you can do and make a specific offer. Here are a few ideas:
--->Make calls to people...to give an update on service details, family needs, work regarding time away from the office, school regarding how teachers and counselors should manage the kids return to school, etc.
--->Flash cleaning...nothing invasive...a quick vacuum, wipe down mirrors and sinks in the bathroom, sweep the kitchen. Make it specific and a relatively quick chore that can be done in a snap.
--->Pick up laundry to do at your own home and return clean and folded. Think towels, bedding and more. Alternatively, you could offer to do the laundry at their home and sit with the kids so he/she can get out for some alone time or visit with friends or family.
--->Mow their lawn, clean out flower beds, trim their bushes, sweep their porch.
--->Take the children to get ice cream and play at the park.
--->Offer to sit with your friend...meaning you just want to provide companionship without any expectations. You can specifically say, "I have a ton of _____ (knitting, photo editing, recipe organizing, reading, writing, etc.) to do. I can bring it over and just hang out for a few hours. We don't have to talk or do anything specific, I just want to be with you."
The practice of sitting in the same space can create moments where the person who is grieving can open up, connect and find comfort in your presence.
Everyone is different so of course their needs are unique. Beyond reaching out with specific offers for support, also reach out to just say you're thinking of them. A text. A handwritten card. It's an outreach of love and compassion without an expectation of a reply. Tell them you're thinking of them and whatever else is on your heart AND actually state that a reply is not necessary. Remind them you just want them to know...they aren't alone, they are loved and you're holding them close.
LAST NOTE: A quick commentary on thank you cards. The last thing someone who is grieving should worry about is sending a thank you card for the support they received. If you know someone who is stressed because they "need" to write a ton of thank yous, please reassure them that is the last thing they need to worry about. If you are a "giver" please drop the notion that you "should" receive a thank you. This kind of care falls in the category of doing the right thing for humanity and the concept of paying it forward. Each one of us will need support and care while in grief, therefore we can each pass it on and on and on... Don't get me wrong, if you want to write thank yous and that makes your heart happy, go for it.
With love, Aimee
*Are you interested in learning more about grief guidance and wayfinding? I offer a complimentary 30 minute session.
Photo Credit: Sam Erwin