Small, Effective Ways to Help a Grieving Family
One of the most difficult things about death is the feeling of helplessness that results. Although you probably sympathize with the grieving family and want to do something to help, knowing how to reach out is difficult. Maybe they want to be alone right now. Maybe they are bombarded with offers of help. Maybe they do not know what they need or are too afraid to ask.
In most cases, it is a combination of all three of these things. That is why one of the best things you can do to help a grieving family is make a very specific offer of help and then let them decide the rest. By reaching out and offering your assistance, you are letting them know that you are thinking of them in their time of need. By being specific about what you can do, you are not burdening them with the task of trying to micromanage all the offers pouring in.
The Value (or Not) of “Let Me Know What I Can Do to Help”
“Let me know what I can do to help.”
“I’m here if you need me.”
“I’m always available if you want to chat.”
These phrases are common after the death of a loved one, and for good reason. They show support without being intrusive and are considered open-ended offers for any kind of assistance (at least from the perspective of the person saying them). After all, what is better than a free pass that someone can cash in on at any time?
Unfortunately, few people are efficient thinkers after a loss. No matter how much help they need or how much work there is to be done, it is difficult to start assigning tasks and checking off items on a to-do list like it is just another day of running errands. It can also be difficult for them, feeling like they are a burden to others, even though all you want to do is help.
That is why it is better to consider your own abilities and the family’s specific needs and tailor an offer they can easily say “Yes, please” or “No, thanks” to.
Consider saying things like:
- “I’ll be free all weekend if you want me to come pick up the kids for a few hours.”
- “I’m going to be in your neighborhood this afternoon—can I grab you something from the grocery store on my way?” (It doesn’t have to be a grocery store…even an offer of a cup of coffee from their favorite cafe might help.)
- “I’ll be running errands tomorrow. Is there anything I can do for you while I’m out and about?”
- “I’m doing a lot of baking and cooking this week, and I would love to bring some over for you.”
- “Could I stop by this afternoon and help you with some housekeeping?”
The most important thing to remember is that once you have made your offer, take all personal feelings out of it. Do not be upset if they say no—they may have somebody else on the task, or they might be overwhelmed with offers right now. You can also make another offer in a few days or weeks, but do not go overboard trying to find the perfect way to help. Simply being there is enough.