Easy, practical ways you can support friends and family after death of a loved one.
Whether the death is expected or sudden it is natural to want to show support to friends and family after they expereince the death of a loved one. Often we don’t know what to say, how to act or what to do in these life circumstances. I have put together a list that might be helpful to you. I drew up this list after we experienced the sudden death of a parent and based it off of the emotions we felt, what we found to be helpful and what we wish people had done to help us in hind sight.
Show Support. Be present.
Attend the viewing.
Attend the funeral.
Both can be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved but just by showing up and being present is very comforting to those who are mourning. It is one thing to send a text or even a card but to take time out of your life to pay respects and support the family speaks volumes to the love and respect you have for the family.
Share a story or a memory.
When you are expressing condolences to the family share a little story or memory you had of the person who died. Your memories are yours and by sharing a memory of the departed you are sharing a bit of what made their loved one special to you. These memories can give the family a greater understanding of how loved and how greatly their loved one will be missed.
Don’t ask, do.
Often people say ‘Let me know what you need.’, leaving it up to the grieved to determine what they need and who can support them. This is not very practical because when in a highly emotional situation, often people don’t know what they need or who can provide it. It is very overwhelming planning a funeral, especially if the death was sudden.
Think of what you can provide to support a family and do it. Take one thing off their plate by taking action.
- I am bringing you a meal this week. Would you prefer Tuesday or Wednesday?
- You must be overwhelmed with everything. I am going to take your kids to the park from 4-7 and I will pack sandwiches to feed them. Hopefully a few hours of quiet will be helpful.
- I am going to the grocery store. I am going to pick up some items so you will have breakfast for the next few mornings. I will drop them off by 3.
- I know you are in full planning mode. Will you let me coordinate the funeral lunch?
- I know you are overwhelmed at the moment. I want to take you out to lunch next week when things settle down and out of town guests have left.
Think of the kids.
Funeral homes, viewings and funeral services are overwhelming for adults. Think how much more they are for kids. Often funeral homes will have a room for children to hand out it, with a tv and coloring books. Even if this is provided it is nice to take a small gift bag for the kids of the family. It doesn’t have to be much. Just a gift bag of something small can be helpful to serve as a distraction for the kids.
- Crayons and coloring books.
- Card games
- Lend an iPad with videos on it. Don’t forget the headphones!
Out of the area.
If you are not in the area and are not able to physically support the family and feel you want to send something I would suggest sending something practical. In my opinion flowers are lovely and are a great way of expressing sympathies, they quickly die and now they have dead flowers have to be deal with.
- A bottle of beer, wine or liquor. If you know the family has a favorite beverage, send it and they can toast their loved one.
- A flowering plant. I know I said that flowers are impractical but a plant that doesn’t require much care, such as an orchid, can be a lovely remembrance.
- Make a donation. Ask the family if they are asking for contributions to a memorial fund, a local charity or organization.
- Send a gift card to a restaurant. Find a restaurant that they would love and send them a gift card. In the weeks that follow they will appreciate a night out.