When someone passes away, everyone tries to reach out to help the family. They do this with the best of intentions, but sometimes, that help does not always work. Other times, people want to help, but they don’t know what they can do, especially without crossing boundaries. From my experience, here are some of the most productive ways to help the bereaved:
- Yummy food! This is a common one. The absolute last thing a grieving person wants to do is go grocery shopping, let alone cook. By either cooking a homemade meal or delivering a gift card to their favorite restaurant, you have made their lives less stressful. Pro tip: if the family does not want visitors, drop off what you have, and leave. Then, let them know something is at the doorstep. This takes away the obligation for the bereaved to entertain while still allowing them to feel your love.
- Practical “flowers”. Flowers are the common sympathy gift, but oftentimes, they can do more harm than good as they, too, go through the cycle of life. Seeing flowers die can bring upsetting memories to the ones grieving. Also, the maintenance of caring for flowers may not be something for which the bereaved has energy. Instead, look into sending other beautiful gifts such as Edible Arrangements. This is something they can continue to enjoy with the same beauty that flowers boast.
- Run their errands. Amidst funeral planning, hosting guests, and general grieving, the seemingly little daily tasks get lost in the background. Ask for their grocery list, and deliver whatever they need. This small timesaver will make a world of difference.
- Treat them to a spa day. For a long time, the grieving person is tense, stressed, and forgetting about him/herself. Once life has settled down, this is the perfect way to show them you care about them. A spa day focuses on every aspect of health: mind, body, and soul. If you can take them out to one or send a gift card, a spa day enforces the important notion of self-care.
- Trust them. This was the biggest thing for me. It’s comforting to know that people care, and you can show this by checking in on them every now and then. And if they tell you they are okay — trust them. If they tell you they are not okay — trust them. There is nothing more frustrating than being fondled over when you insist upon feeling one way. There is not one right or wrong way to grieve, and that, in and of itself, is okay. Be respectful of how the person feels, regardless of how you perceive that feeling ought to be.
Loss is a part of life, and it affects all of us more often than it should — directly or indirectly. The next time you don’t know how to help a grieving friend, consider these ideas. I know these things helped in our situation, and it has taught me how I will be able to help others in the future.