Six months ago I experienced the greatest loss of my life when my husband of nineteen years died suddenly. I can say that through this loss I have experienced the greatest joy of my life as friends, family and perfect strangers helped in ways that eased the initial pain and suffering. Helping a family who has lost a loved one can be simple and yet sometimes we just don’t know what to do. If you ever find yourself in the company of someone grieving, here are eight simple things you can do to help.
- Smile – Sometimes our heart is so sad we forget our face reflects it. When you smile, I hope to meet your smile with a smile. Be patient with us as we discover new reasons to smile about. Smiles communicate when words can not. Thank you in advance for sharing them so freely.
- Sort – Offer to sort something. Sort socks, sort songs, sort pictures, sort something! Several friends made it their mission to sort my stuff. So much stuff needed sorting! People offered to sort through our pictures and music in preparation for the memorial service. Keeping up with so much change left me physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Doing what needs to get done is challenging and the need for help is multiplied to a greater degree within a crisis situation. If you want to help in this way please offer!
- Sponsor – Offer to sponsor a child’s extracurricular activity, school dance, dental work or house payment. Financial instability is the first fear I had to overcome after my husband died. Uncertainty about providing for my family as a single mother weighed heavily on my heart and mind. This has been the most bittersweet type of help. On a weekly basis I am reminded of the people who give so that my children can participate in a sport, dance or camp. The smile and pride of participation I see on their faces ministers to my soul deeply.
- Silence – Offer your silence. People can say strange things to avoid saying nothing. Be confident in this, you are right, THERE ARE NO WORDS. The silence may be awkward but it is necessary. I sought a higher power on this one and asked God the following question, “Why do they say such awful things?” He answered quickly. He said, “You love them more than what they say.” He’s right. I do.
- Shop – Offer to shop. Shopping for items needed to sustain life at home is necessary but can be hard to accomplish during a time of crisis. For me personally, this was extremely difficult because my husband was supposed to meet me at the grocery store the night he died. Shopping is a sadness trigger for me. I do more shopping online and believe AmazonFresh (An online grocery shopping service) was invented just for me and for such a time as this! Others sent a healthy supply of toilet paper, hand towels, dish soap, laundry detergent, mops, and fly swatters. When I use each of these items I can’t help but remember the kindness of people who blessed us in this way!
- Sentimentality – Offer to be sentimental by writing a note, making something with your hands, or expressing yourself creatively. I cherish all of the gifts we received that were accompanied by thoughtful notes, poems, songs and scripture verses. We received hand-knitted prayer shawls and blankets, original paintings and pictures, a personalized necklace and a variety of other items that continue to lift our spirits when we see and use them.
- Snacks – Offer to cook a meal, bake a dessert or purchase snacks. Food speaks a language of comfort to children. Meals were delivered to our home for more than a month and a family in our church committed to providing us snacks for an entire year! Every other week my front porch is full of our favorite foods and I celebrate this provision every time I pack school lunches.
- Surrender – Surrender can be described as the intersection between acceptance and change. We visit this junction often during our grief journey. We ask, “Why?” and, “What now?” questions here. Sometimes we like the answers, other times we don’t. We accept our new reality in varying degrees and process the change as best we know how. Remember we are learning a new normal.
Thank you for keeping us company,