Jeff and I get this question repeatedly: My ____ just lost their ___, what can I do? The question varies but usually includes death, a terminal diagnosis, some kind of very difficult path. I’m grateful people have trusted me with answering those questions and decided to ask my Instagram peeps what specific questions they have around death/grief/loss. Some of those questions are answered below. Many of the answers will vary based on relationship. If your neighbor loses their 98 year old grandmother that will be different than your best friend losing their school aged son.
Do I bring a meal? What kind of meal do I bring? Yes bring a meal. The last thing someone should have to worry about during a horrible time is preparing food. My go to for meals are breakfast and lunch because less people think about those. Something as simple as breakfast sandwiches that freeze well (if necessary) and are easy to heat. After breakfast or lunch I always choose a hearty soup. Most/some people don’t have an appetite and I see soup as something that they can easily eat. I’m also a restaurant gift card fan. It’s fine to leave meals at someone’s doorstep too! How often should I bring a meal? I think you should plan to bring a meal more than once. Maybe you bring your first meal and then bring another one a week or two later.
What do I say? I’m going to yell this so everyone can hear: IT MATTERS LESS WHAT YOU SAY AND MORE THAT YOU SAID SOMETHING. One of the saddest/hardest things a grieving person can feel is unseen or alone. People who you thought were your people say absolutely nothing and that.is.awful. Don’t be one of those people. Suggestions: I’m so sorry (which can be added to any of the following). This is so unfair. I am here for you. I love you. You are not alone. I’m with you. I’m thinking of you. Things NOT to say: Anything that begins with ‘at least…’ (you can have more children, you can get married again, they aren’t in pain), anything that makes their loss/grief about you (I know how you feel…, you’re making me too sad, you’re making me think of my granddaughter), comparison in any way shape or form (your dog, your friend’s brother’s girlfriend, anyone other than the person who died).
What do I do when I run into them? This is similar to the question asked above. An acknowledgment is what you should do. Circumstances may make it difficult but an effort is important, “I heard you lost your aunt. I’m so sorry.” In an ideal world you would’ve already reached out to them and you could say something like, “How are you doing?”
Can I send a gift? I send/bring this book for kids: The Invisible String. Sometimes I like to send a stepping stone as an activity that can be done now or later. I recommend this book for adults: It’s ok that you’re not ok. I don’t see gifts as necessary <3.
What can I do to make them feel better? I think we need to shift from ‘making feel better’ to showing love/care/concern. Bottomline is you will not make anyone who has lost someone they love feel better. I know you want to because it’s hard to see them hurting but it doesn’t work that way. What you can do is show them that you will be there for them, you love them, and you aren’t just there when things are roses and sunshine. Should I ask how to help? Lots of people responded to my Instagram stories with, “It helps so much more when they just do something instead of asking what they can do or saying I’m here if you need me.” I whole heartedly agree with this. It is very difficult to see two seconds from right now when you’ve just lost someone you love. You have no idea what needs to be done and asking for specific things can bring guilt so we often say we don’t need anything. Don’t ask if you should bring a meal, just bring one. Don’t ask if you can mow their lawn, just mow it. This is the only time I would caution on overstepping. If you’re an acquaintance don’t show up with a mop expecting to be let into someone’s home. Use your best judgment based on your relationship. Maybe you know your friend loves Starbucks. Leave their favorite drink on their doorstep and send a text.
How do I let them know I care without being in the way? The great thing about 2021 is you can keep sending love via text message. A simple message that reads, “I’m thinking of you today. I’m here for you.” The most important thing is not to expect a response in return. Also understand that no response doesn’t mean they are annoyed or bothered. Just be ready to actually be there. Be ready to listen if they need that. A text once a day, every couple days, and later once a week is a great (alter based on your relationship).
What was the most meaningful thing someone did for you? I had to think about this one for a couple days. The most meaningful things to me were the things that people said and did later on. I very much appreciated meals, texts, cards, flowers etc. and felt loved by a lot of people immediately after Blake died. But the people I felt most loved by were the ones who checked on me in the weeks, months, even years after. We have friends who send us flowers every anniversary. I have a handful of people who send texts that says, “I was thinking about Blake today” or “I had a dream about Blake last night” and it really means so much to me. Years later it is the people who remember my daughter that I cherish.
If you have a specific circumstance that you’d like my input on I’m happy to help!