Family and friends who have lost someone, particularly when it’s sudden and unexpected usually have just enough mindfulness to get through each day. So many immediate decisions have to be made and each one is difficult which makes them exhausting. Typical thought processes go out the window. Nothing is clear. The mind is muddled.
What is a grieving person thinking when they go to the closet of their beloved to select a garment? A favorite dress of hers or what color looks good on him, likely the same clothing observations made when that person was alive, but this time it is automatic and final.
The rumors start and before long family hears them. They want to shout, “No! That is not how it happened,” but they are too numb to respond. Friends take up the mantle and try to shut the gossip down, but rumors are like mold — they grow off of each other.
Friends tend to run over with a casserole in hand. Before you do that, stop and think for a minute. The grievers are not likely to be eating much for at least the first few days. The biggest problem is often where to put the delivered food items. The refrigerator fills quickly, then the freezer if the food can be frozen. Blessed are those who bring nonperishables. Suggestions could be fruit and/or vegetable trays, freshly popped popcorn, chips and dips can run the gamut from salsa and tortilla chips at the healthier end to Cheetos; they are all comfort foods. Paper products such as napkins, Kleenex, paper plates and toilet paper are always needed and they don’t go stale.
Everyone tells the family, “Let me know if you need anything.” That’s a nice sentiment but it would be more helpful to offer something specific. Perhaps you could wash their car and vacuum it out or mow their lawn, whatever is appropriate. If they have to go to the airport to collect family members or have to attend to business at the funeral home, offer to be their house sitter. Have paper handy where the names of visitors can be recorded. If they brought something by, be sure that gets written down. It’s a good place to note any incoming phone calls and the caller’s information.
Even though you will relate this information when the family comes back to the house, they may acknowledge what you tell them, but chances are good they will not remember. Those first days are generally a blur. If something you tell them is forgotten, don’t take it personally.
When you want to go visit, don’t feel you are required to take anything or that you won’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” is plenty. It is your presence that is valued. Keep supporting the family after the services. A week or so later ask if you can supply a meal and what night would be best. Caring and giving will do wonders for them and for you.
Sanders is a national award-winning columnist who writes from the farm in southwestern South Dakota. She would enjoy hearing from you through email@example.com.
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