After you’ve sent a card or connected with them some other way, you might be wondering, how else you can help? A death in the family can bring so many different and difficult changes, to everyday routines, financial situations, even living arrangements. There are so many things to deal with, like making funeral arrangements, dealing with wills and insurance and contacting relatives and friends.
The bereaved would probably love your support, but how do you know what you should do? What’s appropriate? How can you be helpful without imposing or getting in the way?
It might seem thoughtful to leave this in their hands by saying something like, “Let me know if you need anything!” or “Call me if I can help!” But directly after a loss, people are often numb and overwhelmed—or are unsure of how to ask for the things they really need.
Make things easier for them by offering to help with specific tasks, and keep on offering too.
What you can do to help after the initial loss
Continue to be there for someone who is grieving by thinking about the kind of person they are, how they live, and what kinds of practical things you could do to help and relieve a little of the stress they may be facing. Make a list of things you know need to be done and offer to deal with some of them. You could offer to:
- Pick up some shopping for them
- Run some errands
- Deliver dinner to their house
- Take care of kids or pets
- Take care of the garden
- Act as a chauffeur for any appointments
- Help them sort through post
- Take out and bring in the bins for them on bin day.
- Help them create a slideshow or display of special photos for the memorial service
- Address thank-you notes after the funeral
It might be that the bereaved is more of a casual connection than a close friend and this might inhibit your expression of support as you feel it’s not quite your place or you’re not close enough, sometimes though, these more unexpected sources of support are the ones that bring the most light… so reach out!
Here are some ideas for things you could do if you don’t feel that you’re close enough to anticipate their day-to-day needs:
- Donate or raise money for their loved one’s favourite charity – sponsored walks, runs, cycles, swims, there’s all sorts of ways to do it.
- Or volunteer with an organisation that was special to their loved one – animal rescue centres, helplines, community groups always appreciate help.
- Drop round with a bunch of indulgent treats or snacks
How to work out what they really need
So, how else can you find out what the bereaved needs and reach out? Think about what you know of their behaviour and relationships, and be guided by that:
- Are they an introvert? Do they need their alone time after a long day? Rather than calling or dropping round, why not make up a basket full of comforting bits and bobs, and leave it at their door with a note or send a thoughtful care package by post.
- Or do they need people around them? Do they find relief in laughter and company? Schedule some time together. A mini mental break from the weight of heartache might be just what they need. But, please remember—this doesn’t mean they won’t be grieving the entire time. Take your cues from them about the conversation: Do they want to be distracted or to tell stories about their loved one?
- How have they supported others who were having a rough time? Do you know of caring things they’ve done or like to do? If they bake for stressed-out friends, then a good way to show that you’re there for them could be a beautiful box of cupcakes. If they’re the one you call when you’re stranded at the airport, then why not ask for their grocery list and shop for them or have it delivered. If they’re always there for you when you need to rant about your bad day, then make sure you’re available for them, even if you’re busy.
Because we all share, accept and show love differently, and because we also all grieve in our own ways, pay attention to who the person is who is grieving and think about what might make the most positive impact for them.