This piece first appeared on My Side Of 50. See the author’s bio and contact info below the post.
How do you help when someone dies? We’ve all faced it or we will at some point. I never lost anyone close to me until I lost both of my parents in 2015. Talk about opening up a “big ol’ can of whoop-ass” on the emotions.
When you know someone who has had a death in the family, you feel such empathy for their loss. You want to do something. Some people are good at jumping in and figuring out something to do.
Others of us want to “do something” but we become paralyzed because we don’t know what to do. I confess that before I lost my parents, that was me a lot of the time. But what I came to realize is that any gesture, no matter how small, ministered to my heart in such a profound way. A kind word, a card, text, phone call or just showing up gave me comfort. So here are 19 Real Ways To Help Family When Someone Dies.
19 Real Ways to Help Family When Someone Dies
People will be coming. Either out of town guests for the funeral or friends who just stop by. Here are some things that your friends will need:
- Paper goods – plates, napkins, cutlery, styrofoam coffee cups, plastic drinking cups, toilet paper, napkins, paper towels, garbage bags.
- Canned soft drinks, bottled water, coffee.
- Meals – Lots of times neighbors and friends show up pretty soon after a person dies with a cake or casserole and that it good. But if you can coordinate meals through a service like Caring Meals, you can communicate with those who want to help the family’s special dietary needs, preferences and drop-off arrangements. Taking care of all of these details is so appreciated.
- Drive your friend to the funeral home when she has to make funeral arrangements.
- Pick up out of town guests at the airport.
- Drive out of town guests or elderly family members to and from the funeral.
- Take kids to and from school.
Funeral arrangements – We planned what I consider your basic, standard funeral for my parents. Nice, but nothing that I would consider elaborate. Yet, there was still a lot to do at a time when I didn’t feel like doing anything. Here are some areas where you may be able to help:
- Video presentation – At many funerals, there is some kind of video presentation showing pictures of the deceased. This is a lovely way to honor them and share beautiful memories with all who attend. But getting all those pictures together in one spot, scanning those that need to be scanned and sending them to the funeral home takes a long time. Ask if you can help with that.
- Help them locate and download the music they want for the presentation.
- Take things that will be needed to the funeral home for them. Clothes for the deceased. Any memorabilia that they will display. We had a big portrait of each of my parents. And for my Dad, we had lots of stuff to display from his time in the military and his years of service as a policeman.
- Help them get the word out about the funeral arrangements to those who need to know.
- If an honorarium will be paid to the minister or musicians, get that from your friend and see that it is given to the appropriate person.
- After the funeral, gather the pictures and memorabilia, flag, guest book – anything that was brought to the funeral home that needs to be returned and deliver it to the family.
- Gather any flowers or plants the family wants to keep and deliver those to them. You may need to get several friends to help you with that.
After The Funeral
- If the deceased has been living in assisted living or nursing home, the family only has a certain amount of time to collect their belongings. Get boxes and offer to go and help pack things up.
- If it is a situation where there is a deep financial need, set up a fundraising campaign on a site like Go Fund Me.
- Call on a regular basis, especially on those first holidays and anniversaries.
- Send a card.
- Send a handwritten note with a memory of the person’s loved one. If it’s someone you have a picture of, send that too. When we lose someone, we still want to talk about them and know that others remember them too.
- Send a Condolence Gift Package like these from A Healing Spirit.
The important thing in helping someone who has suffered the loss of a loved one is to “anticipate, don’t ask”, according to grief counselor, Megan Devine (refugeingrief.com).
Do not say “Call me if you need anything,” because your friend will not call. Not because they do not need, but because identifying a need, figuring out who might fill that need, and then making a phone call to ask is light years beyond their energy levels, capacity or interest. Instead, make concrete offers: “I will be there at 4 p.m. on Thursday to bring your recycling to the curb,” or “I will stop by each morning on my way to work and give the dog a quick walk.” Be reliable. – How to Help a Grieving Friend – 11 Things to Do When You’re Not Sure What to Do by Megan Devine
I remember the most thoughtful thing my good friends did for me after my dad died. They gave me a gift card for a spa day. You see, my mom had a stroke in January and died in February. My dad broke his hip in July and died in September. Most days during those 9 months were spent in hospitals, rehabs and assisted living with them. I don’t regret a moment I spent with my parents, but when it was all over, I was tired. That gift card to the spa said to me “We see you. We see what you’ve been going through. Here is something to help you take care of you.”
Other articles by Cathy Lawdanski that may help you: