Recently, our mom passed away unexpectedly. I couldn’t believe all the ways in which I was a recipient of service, and I just couldn’t stifle my surprise at all the kind gestures that came my way. I know often times, people don’t know WHAT to do when someone is suffering, so I thought I’d list 7 Ways to Serve a Grieving Friend (or family member). Because I do believe…People Want to Know.
- Bring a meal. The most mundane of tasks can be challenging, when grief sets in. I didn’t think I needed it from people, and was surprised when the meals kept coming beyond day 1, but oh so grateful. I thought, surely there are others who could use this more than me, but I’ll just let people serve, because I know I wouldn’t want to be turned down if I offered. I felt super awkward when a good friend of mine offered to set up a Care Calendar, which would allow people to pick a day, but when people wer texting me and asking me to all bring on day 2, I thought it would probably be a good idea, because I was getting confused. I had like 10 people offer to bring a meal on that first day, and I felt kinda silly saying, we have something covered today, I felt so bad that I had to turn them away! So, my suggestion when offering a meal is say, “I’d love to bring a meal, can I tomorrow, or is another day better? What are dislikes/allergies?” It helped me to name a day, instead of just saying that they day they suggested, didn’t work. As someone receiving a meal, BE HONEST! Don’t say, “we like everything” when you really don’t. People need something to go by.
- Bring a treat. This can be in the form of cookies, a fruit basket, muffins, etc. Even if I wasn’t feeling up to eating a treat, my kids were. AND, I think I’ve decided I’m a stress eater. My friend brought my favorite chocolate chip pecan pie, and I just dug my fork right in. My kids are weird about pecans, so I ate the majority of it myself, saved a little for my husband. A neighbor dropped off a bag full of cookies, it doesn’t have to be a major investment to show you care. Another friend brought a fruit platter, a jug of lemonade, and an “i love you” balloon that she wanted to put on my front porch. Another friend, just brought a tub of cookie dough, because she knew how much I loved to eat it. No effort, just thought a few $’s.
- Drop off flowers. I’ve always told my husband to not bring me flowers for anniversaries and Valentines Day. Too cliche, I didn’t think I cared that much about them. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the flower arrangements that were dropped off or delivered. I think, mostly because I saw it as so extremely thoughtful that someone would a) take the time to pick something out on my behalf and b) spend the money. I know flowers can be pricey, and the arrangements that I got were minimum $10, and I know some a lot more. I just teared up, each time a new arrangement was dropped off, and it truly meant so much.
- Offer grocery store runs. I had lots of people say to me, “Let me know if you need anything from the store” but I felt silly actually taking the step to ask. But, what I really loved, was when someone would say, “I’m going to the store in an hour, or today, what can I grab for you?” Then I KNEW they were already going, and I wouldn’t be too much of a pain asking to grab an item or two. If they say they are good, you can always say, “If you say nothing, I’ll just bring you 1% milk and a bunch of bananas.” Then they may actually say something they want/need. I had so many people say they’d love to help, but I hated the idea of asking them to go to the store just for me. But if I knew they were already going, it was so much easier for me to say, “I’d love some Gala apples, thank you so much!” I had fruit, milk, apples, and a few other things dropped off. I didn’t feel too bad when they declined my offer to pay, because I only asked for a small amount. I did ask a friend to pick up something that was nearly $100, but I insisted that I wouldn’t take it if they wouldn’t let me pay for it. I also felt a little guilty when my neighbor dropped of Organic milk (that we don’t even drink) because I know it’s DOUBLE! Agh!
- Offer your services. What is your skill set? What is a talent you have that you can offer up? I had one friend in Chicago say to me, “I know I can’t do much from a far, but I can help with photoshop or computer or photography something.” When I needed some help on the computer, I went straight to her. Though I didn’t need photoshop, it was something that reminded me that she can do something from afar. Because she offered something specific, it brought to mind something else I could ask her to do. I had her go through my facebook page, and copy and paste the 300 comments that people left on “the announcement” and pull out the stories that people shared, and paste them into a word document. Because she was so helpful and quick with this, I also asked her to help me edit the obituary I wrote for my mom, because I knew she also had writing skills. Thank you, Liz! My other friend, Amy, is a seamstress. She offered to make a quilt out of my mom’s clothes. I’m so glad she said that to me on day 2, because when I told my dad, he was already in cleansing mode (he will have to move from his place of residence, being released from him mission service with my mom gone) and had given away a bunch of my mom’s clothes to the needy in Ghana (to be fair, I told him the day before, we wouldn’t need them). I called him off of that with the idea to make the quilt. Because this friend offered her sewing services there, it was much easier for me to reach out to her and ask her to help me make dresses for my girls for the funeral service. Offer your skills. People said, “I can come clean.” For which I’d likely never actually say, “sure, why don’t you come clean my toilets at 4pm”, but if someone came over with the intent to clean, I wouldn’t stop them. One of my friends came to plant flowers in my yard. It’s a friend I’ve only recently gotten to know, and this truly was an act of service that went beyond, because it’s like….”how did they even think of this?” I’m not positive, but I think she meant to do this without me finding out. The time she came, was ironically, as another friend was on my porch dropping something off. She was just unloading her car, she brought her mini gardening shovel and had picked up some flowers to plant in my flower bed out front. She sat on her knees for a good hour, and digged up the nasty weeds I had there, and planted beautiful flowers. Now I’m not a green thumb, so I see this as going way beyond, but she used her skills in a way to serve me that meant so much. I know that she has lost her mother, and I’ve found that people “who know” truly seem to know the need to do something.
- Visits. With my good friends, I just loved a visit. Some, may not. But I loved talking over and over, and just having a listening ear. There was so much going on, so many details to sort out, and it was nice to have people listen. I know it’s a challenge to not know what to do, but the friends that stopped over, not really sure what they were going to do or say, meant so much to me. I saw in their faces that their heart was hurting on my behalf. I didn’t really need a token or gift, it was the friends who dropped everything the moment they found out, to run over, that meant so much to me. I really only called one person to inform them. Friends from growing up heard through a “grapevine” and I got calls from a few of my closest friends out of state that knew my mom well. But my local friends, they really stepped up to the plate, and it really meant a lot.
- SHARE MEMORIES! One of the greatest gifts I’ve had (and I wasn’t afraid to ask) for stories and memories of my mom from those that knew her. My local friends didn’t too much, but when people that she knew on facebook would say, “I have so many fond memories of your mom” or “she taught me so much” I replied back and said, “I’d love to hear specific stories or examples so that we can put them in the memory book for the grandchildren!” So many stories have trickled in, that I truly adore.
***Most of these above are for people that live in your same town. I feel like that first week, those were the blessings that came to me. This week, I can’t believe even more love is trickling in for me, mostly from my out of town friends. I got a fruit bouquet, sherrie’s chocolate covered strawberries, a locket necklace, PEOPLE magazine (because she knows I love it) and a gold strawberry necklace charm from friends who knew how much my mom loved strawberries. It isn’t the actual gift that is what is important (and I feel silly like I’m bragging here, not trying to), it’s the thought behind it. I’ve also had cards in the mail, and so many texts, facebook messages, and calls. TO ME, just the reaching out means so much.
The only times in my life that I had received service on my behalf like this, was the 4 times I had babies. I LOOOVE meals brought to me, so it’s something I’ve always tried to do for others. But I’d generally get 2 or 3 meals, and my husband did the rest. He’s pretty handy, I didn’t need much. But that taught me that a meal is EVERYTHING in a tumultuous time of life.
With my mom’s passing recently, I’d never had such kindness poured on me such as this. In the past 9 days since my mom has passed away, I’ve had such an overwhelming response, that makes me wonder why I haven’t been this thoughtful for others when I’ve heard news about such pain in their life. I just didn’t know. I didn’t realize how important it was to share such love and kindness. I feel like I try to be a thoughtful and service oriented person, but I had no idea what level other people take it to, and I now have to raise my own personal bar in the future, now that I know.
Really, all of this doesn’t bring my mom back. The sting is still there, but the asks of kindness truly allows for my heart to shift to another direction, that of gratitude. I truly believe that in all of this, there is a silver lining. There is GOOD to be taken from grief, and that is the love of God through others hands.
If you’ve had grief, and others are offering to serve you, LET THEM! Though it can be difficult to accept service, you are doing those friends a favor by allowing them to bless your life. People want to do something, and sometimes the only thing they can do, is to ease your burden with their kindness. Don’t deprive them of having a serving heart.
If you’ve had a friend experiencing grief, I hope these tips can help you figure out a way to serve.
FYI, another thought is that I appreciated people saying, “I’m so sorry to hear about your loss” but others haven’t cared for that phraseology. I have NOT liked when people said, “How are you doing?” Ummmmmm….horribly, what do you think? Or if I felt “ok” that dad, I didn’t really want to say that either. But with “I’m sorry” my response could simply be “thank you” and that was enough.
If you want to hear more about our moms sudden passing, you can read:
Families can be Together Forever
Be Near Me: Print and Christmas song that strengthens me