When my husband committed suicide, I was 38 with four children relying on me to keep their lives stable. The people around me loved us deeply and wanted to help desperately, but knowing what to do was difficult. For me, it was difficult to humble accept that help, but as I did, I felt life saving love. For those of you wondering how to help, I wanted to share the things that helped me most.
1. Bring something soft.
When grief strikes, the reaction is physical. It causes so much stress that you can become cold and exhausted. For me, having something new and soft like a blanket helped to ease grief because I felt love from the person giving the gift.
2. Food is essential.
Initially, grief makes it difficult to eat. Readily available food makes it easier to find nourishment to finish the day. For the long term, meals in the coming months can be a very helpful. Gift cards for food establishments are greatly appreciated as your schedule is disrupted and sometimes you don’t have time or energy to cook.
The Dinner Fairies saved me. A group of neighbors have labelled themselves the Dinner Fairies and they show up with a recipe and all the ingredients for a meal on my doorstep about twice a week. The first time they brought the food, they wrapped every ingredient in beautiful wrapping paper including the green beans. This gift of love has helped by enabling me to believe that I could care for my family on my own, and taking the financial burden off my family
3. Personal Care Items come in handy.
Breath mints, tissue for crying, and even the basics of toilet paper and soap often are forgotten in the rush to handle the real crisis of the day.
4. Sit with them.
Sometimes people who are grieving just need to talk and cry with a physical body present. They need to talk about their loved one, they need arms to hold them, and they need to know they are not alone. Just dropping by, saying you are sorry and that you know there is no right thing to say, and just being available is what is most needed.
5. Paper goods are a must.
When you are grieving the last thing you need to do is the dishes. Paper plates, napkins and loads of plastic utensils allow that stress to be temporarily eliminated.
6. Don’t ask, just do.
My house and my yard were a mess. Don’t ask if you can come clean, just come over and clean. If you see weeds, just pull them out. If the grieving person wants to help, let them. It might be therapeutic, but they may also need a friend to get started. This is a wonderful opportunity to listen as you work together. Offer a hug; the loss of physical affection leaves a void, and physical contact can go a long way in lifting spirits.
7. Take their kids or come entertain them.
Grief is wickedly confusing because at times you are exhausted and need quiet and at other times you want noise to fill the gaping hole left by the one you love. the kids are also grieving and missing normal interactions. Invite them to go out, but be amendable to bringing over an activity if the grieving person is uncomfortable letting them go. Movie gift certificates allow the grieving parent to participate in an activity on their time table.
8. Thank you Notes
Providing stamps, note cards and new pens helps immensely with the task of thanking all of those who have offered help.
9. Going to the grocery store is emotional.
Text me or call when you are going to the store and ask if you can pick something up. This saves them from melting down in a public place.
10. Lower your expectations.
Grief makes every task in your life more difficult. So much of their focus is initially on surviving day to day. Accept that they may be slower, forgetful, and may not respond to texts or calls, but know that your caring is always appreciated.
11. Send your love.
Reach out and text or call. Remember that in the first days and weeks they will be bombarded with support, so the calls that come 6-12 months later or even years later are much appreciated. Some of the best love is sent in a note. The greatest notes contained stories of my husband, giving me a piece of him back. Opening your mail box to find a note of encouragement instead of just bills is a blessing.
12. They will never get OVER the death of their loved one and they hope you don’t either.
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Moroni 7:47 When a person dies grief doesn’t have an end. Over time they get used to the weight. It never goes away, but they get strong enough to carry it. People who remember the loss over the next months and years will bring the support needed to carry that burden.
Include them. Losing a loved one leaves you lonely. The more people included us in Family Home Evenings, dinners, vacations or activities the easier it was to bear our burdens. We were able to forget for a minute our troubles and just enjoy the people around us and learn from their love and testimonies. Having many people to call our friends meant that I was able to call and ask for help on nights when I was falling apart or when my kids needed a different adult to help them.
In my journey with grief I have found charity to be overwhelmingly humbling. My heart has ached but been lifted by a kind word, a listening ear or a helping hand. Often the help came unasked but because I felt the love from others I was able to ask when my need was greatest and I found that there was always a friend ready to step in and lift my heart.