At a Loss for Words? Offering Support for a Grieving Family
In the midst of death, grief, and funeral planning, it can be very difficult for families to cope with the loss they face. Everyone grieves in a different way, and providing support can be a challenge – especially if you’re uncertain what you can do that won’t add even more worry or work to an already overburdened load.
Depending on how well you know the family (and your location), here are a few different types of support you can provide.
Ask what you can do to help with the funeral plans. Although showing up at the funeral home to help pick out a casket or providing your thoughts on cremation aren’t great ideas unless you’ve been directly asked, it is nice to offer your support. Let the family know that
you are willing to help out in any way you can, even if it’s a simple as gathering favorite
photos or buying a nice flower arrangement for the memorial service.
Visit and be prepared to listen. Oftentimes, friends and family members avoid showing up at the home of the deceased or the house where everyone is gathering for fear of being a bother or intruding on private time. However, death is almost always a social event. Being surrounded by those who knew (and cared for) the deceased is often the best way to cope with loss, especially if you go willing to let the family members talk or cry or do whatever they need to get the grief out. Stay for as long as you feel is proper, and be sure to respect those who do need some alone time, as well. If you’re comfortable in the house, you can also do things like cleaning the kitchen or the bathrooms or take the kids to the park for a little while – anything that makes life a little easier on the family.
Bring food. Perhaps nothing signifies a gathering to honor the deceased more than food. Don’t worry about whether or not the family already has enough to eat or if your dish will be welcome – it’s always better to have too much to eat than not enough. In many cases, the food is actually for other people like you, visiting and gathering, more than the family. In this same vein, items like napkins, paper plates, food storage containers, and even toys for the kids can be useful, as well.
Bring memories and other tokens. Photographs, special remembrances, stories, newspaper clippings…anything you have that might stir up memories is a good tool for helping the bereaved. Oftentimes, this will open the door for discussions about the deceased, and for many people, simply talking and remembering is the best way to cope.
Of course, the support you provide should continue on long past the funeral planning and memorial stages, as well. Grief can and will affect the family for years following the passing of a loved one. Always strive to be respectful of the deceased, but don’t shy away from talking about him or her. Be willing to listen and share – especially on important dates like birthdays, anniversaries, and other momentous life occasions.