First, let me thank you for looking after your friend or loved one. This is a difficult time for them and by coming here, you are clearly trying to do the right thing. It can be hard to know what that is. I will give you some strategies and ideas to help you so that you can help them.
- Don’t simply say, “I’m here for you if you need anything.” Everyone will be saying that, and it doesn’t actually mean anything. Instead, say, “tell me what I can do for you.” If they don’t have an answer, try to anticipate what they will need. Do they need someone to watch their home or pets while they are away at a funeral? Offer to house sit. Do your kids go to the same school? Offer to drop off the children when you take your own. Are they going to be hosting out of town people at their home? Stop by and clean up their home for themor offer to pick people up from the airport. Think about what you would need to do if you were in their shoes, and then offer to do just that. It will show them how much you care.
- Try to alleviate the burden of notifications and funeral arrangements. Take them to make the arrangements so they won’t be alone and help make the arrangements. Offer to call family members. Help them fill out insurance forms and death notices for places like social security and the DMV.
- Help them practice basic self-care. Cook a healthy meal for your family and make extra for them, and bring it by. Write a note on how to reheat it if necessary. Watch their children for an hour so they can take a hot bath or a nap if they need it. Make sure they are taking any medications they may need on a regular basis, and help them reschedule any doctor appointments they might miss due to the circumstances. Go grocery shopping and stock their shelves. Get them outside for a walk, even if it is only around the block.
- This can be hard because we are wired to relate things back to our own experiences. Don’t talk about your own experiences with grieving unless they ask. Instead, offer your presence. Maybe they will want to talk and maybe they will not. But knowing that you are physically there in case they do decide to open up is comforting to them even if they choose not to say anything. Let them know that what they are feeling is normal. Don’t say things like, “I know how you feel” or “You need to move on.” Don’t make it about you or what you think they should do. If they say something that sets off warning bells in your mind, contact someone—preferably their doctor—who can evaluate them and provide help if they need it.
- Lastly, be in it for the long haul. Keep calling or dropping by, even if your attempts are rebuffed at first. After the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the funeral, they will be feeling more alone than ever. Most family and friends will go back to their own lives and the casseroles will stop appearing in the fridge. They need to know you are still there. Stop by with food. Send a card. Give them a call on their first day back at work. Keep reaching out. They will need it, and trust me, they will know that they have a really good friend.
Thank you again, and I will be praying for you so that you may continue to offer assistance to those who need it.