When More Help Is Needed
Be Gentle with Advice
This one is BIG. A natural death at a very old age is different from a death due to crime. If your grandfather died at 99 years old and the person you are speaking with has a son or daughter who has died, please do not say, “I know how you feel.” These two losses are very different experiences. It is out of the natural order to outlive your child and for the rest of your life; you will miss the child who is no longer with you.
Also, please don’t say, “You’ll get over this some day.” Who would want to be “over it,” forget their loved one? What you do want is for it to be easier to walk by their picture without crying. I think “closure” should be taken out of the English language. I close a door but never want to close the love for my son…..ever!
Don’t Try to Fix Your person/family
People grieve; it is a process. And the process is different for each one of us. Be gentle with your judgments of how you think the grief should be. Some people are private about their grief, some are public, so don’t push the expression of grief. My mother used to say, “Everything will dovetail.” What she meant was that in its own time, this will work out. This is the way of grief. For each of us it unfolds in a different way.
Help Care for Family Pets
Many grieving people need to travel and attend to family matters or even trials at some point. Also, they may not have the energy to take care of any person or animal. When you are deeply hurting, every little thing is a huge effort.
Animal care can be short term or long term. If you can help – just ask.
What you can do:
Walk the dog
Take the dog to the groomers (pick-up too)
Buy pet food and supplies
Change the litter box
You might even offer to take the cat/dog home with you for a short time to relieve the family of responsibility.
Have a Meal Delivered
Everyone needs to eat. Do your best to offer healthy nutritious food. If your person/family has a craving for something, bring it. Treats in life are important and comfort is hard to find for the newly grieving. Remember to inquire about dietary restrictions before you order food.
Cook a Nutritious Meal
Make food and bring it or cook for the grieving person or family in their home. I love to make soup, and I think soup made with love helps. Some of the soups I make are, chicken soup, to which I often add vegetables. I also make tomato bisque, white bean with sausage soup, and lentil soup. I love to make soup because I enjoy the chopping, the brewing of all the flavors and because it’s healthy. But if you have something special you love to cook make that for your person. People love receiving pasta sauce, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, quiche—any food that can be kept on hand or freezes well.
When someone receives a meal you have prepared for them, they feel cared for. And at the same time, you feel that you have contributed something toward their care at such a difficult time.
Again, ask about dietary restrictions. As well, you might ask if they need the food. Too much of a good thing can become a burden at this difficult time.
Run Small Errands for Them
Small errands become difficult. Help however you can. Ask for a grocery list – please don’t just guess. Going to public places is very hard in the beginning. You feel so exposed and vulnerable. Picking up groceries for a grieving person or family means both that they don’t have to force themselves into a public place and that there is one fewer things to take care of.
You can also offer to go to the Post Office, the drug store to pick up sundries, even the hardware store.
Bring Flowers – and arrange in a vase
Grief is a hard way to get flowers, but their beauty does help. Consider a potted plant or bring the flowers in a vase. If you bring loose flowers, arrange the flowers in one of the household vases when you arrive. Also, be mindful of allergies. Dealing with flowers can be overwhelming in early stages of grief. If you have the time, tend to the others that have been sent. I saved all the rose petals from bouquets I received and dried them for Christopher’s resting place.
Clean the Person’s House
If they will let you CLEAN! Otherwise have a service come in and offer to pay for it. Life takes a lot of maintenance, and when your life has changed so quickly and you are grieving, it is very hard to keep up with. Things can start to unravel quickly if not taken care of. Help the grieving person maintain their home by:
Do house repairs if needed
Tidy up the kitchen, wash dishes, etc.
Check the refrigerator for food gone bad
Make the beds
Help with gardening
Water and care for inside plants
Pick up their mail
Help with bills, correspondence and thank you notes for flowers
Do a load of laundry
Take dry cleaning
Offer Small Opportunities for Self Care
Offer your person a massage. I found massages a very safe place to cry, and simply told the therapist, “If I cry, don’t worry.”
Suggest going for a manicure or pedicure, a hair style. Often simply getting out of the house for a short time without having to socialize is a welcome relief.
Remember HUMOR Is a Great Healing Tool
The first time I laughed was a big moment. I did not know if I would ever laugh again. Don’t be afraid to say anything funny. At such a time, people want anything that seems normal, and for most of us, laughter is an important part of life.
Be Present in the Moment
It is important to be with your person/family while you are there. Don’t sit and work on your computer or cell phone. Be with them. Their world has changed and even sitting in silence is comforting. Be okay with quiet. Reassure them that all they need to do is be in the moment and take things moment to moment. Music can be very soothing, also.
Love with Abundance
What ever your heart may suggest will most likely be right. Don’t tiptoe around or walk on eggshells. Be yourself that is who they know.
Thank you to Georgia, Carolyn, Lisa, Jessalyn, David and Stacy for help with this series.