Some advice for helping somebody in need

A lot of people do not know what to do when a friend loses a loved one.  So, from somebody that just went through a very personal loss, here’s some recommendations of how to provide a little support and strength to somebody that you know that is currently going through a tough time.

It’s easy to say “if you need anything, call me”.  We had literally dozens of our friends and our mom’s acquaintances says this to all of us.  But, we all know that the statement is hollow…because nobody is going to pick up the phone, call you, and ask you to come over and do their dishes because they just don’t feel like doing them.  Who would call and say that they aren’t eating very well because they don’t have the energy to cook…or that they haven’t taken their dogs out for a long walk because they can’t bare the solitude of being alone?  It takes a while to get life going again when it’s halted by the death or serious illness of a loved one; and sometimes, a person runs out of bread or milk and just doesn’t feel like going shopping to replenish.

We actually had three people call and say that they would make it a point to stop by, and drag us out for some time with friends.  One did stop by, and took my wife out to a movie to allow her a chance to think about something else for a change.  The other two people never came by…guess they got busy with life problems of their own.  I had a couple people say “we should have a drink in memory of…”, but then never follow up to do such.

Hey, I am not complaining.  Most people will offer to be there, but they don’t know how “to be there”.  There hearts are in the right place, but they don’t know what to do.  So, in the future, here’s some things you can do to be there for somebody who faces something like the loss of a very close loved one:

  • Give them a few days to grieve in private…then call them.  Believe me, it’s hard to talk at times, but sometimes the person grieving just needs somebody different to talk to about things.  Just listen to them; they will guide the conversation.
  • There is nothing wrong with sending somebody flowers, a condolences card, or even a hand written note through the mail.  It means the world to get something like this, knowing that somebody else took some time out of their lives to actually show you they were thinking about you for a few minutes.
  • If you have the chance…stop by!  Bringing somebody a casserole, some home made cookies, or even trying to drag them out for a bite to eat does wonders.  Maybe they won’t be home when you get there…leave it on their porch, and tape a note to the door.  Heck, it’s not about the food.  Stop by and hang out with them for awhile to watch TV or have some coffee together.  It’s about the company, and being there to allow a conversation to blossom.
  • Don’t make statements you aren’t going to follow up on.  If you say “we should grab a drink” or “a movie would do you good” or whatever, then follow up.  The other person may be waiting for this exact chance to get some separation from those things that they are currently enduring.  The worst they can say is “no thank you”…but they will appreciate the offer, even if they aren’t ready yet to join you.

We have all been there, wishing to be the support to somebody that needs it, but being too nervous to actually take the initiative to do something due to the thought we may be offending the person(s) that are grieving.

So, in short…don’t say “if you need anything, call me”.  Because that’s not going to happen.  Instead, give them a few days, and then you should reach out to them.  Be the support that they need, because they are going to need you to step up when they cannot make the call first.  And…they will always remember that you were actually there for them when they needed you most.

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