I went to a visitation this weekend for a young man, gone home too soon. I kept hearing people say to the family, “Let me know if there is anything I can do,” or “Call me if I can do something.” I even heard people say what could be done, as if they were putting suggestions into the universe that maybe someone else would hear and decide to do that. “You know what would be good? …”
You know what would ACTUALLY be good? Doing something without being asked because a grieving family is not going to call people and ask them to do things for them. Grief is so overwhelming and isolating. The last thing on your mind is to call someone and ask them for a favor.
If you want to bring a meal, bring a meal. Don’t talk about it. Don’t say, “Let me know if I can bring you a meal.” Just do it. Better yet, organize a Meal Train (www.mealtrain.com) so lots of people can bring them meals and keep it organized. Even if you think, “Oh, they can put this in the freezer for later,” that’s assuming they have the room in the freezer or will remember it later. Trust me, it is really difficult to remember anything during the early stages of grief. Your mind runs wild with thoughts, to the point where you think you may be going crazy. If it’s not essential, a grieving person is NOT going to remember it.
I remember people offering to do things for us at Delia Grace’s visitation and funeral, but I have no idea who they were and would never think to actually call them and ask for something. I would have felt awkward or imposing to do such a thing. My brain can’t even remember who attended these things. My memories of the days in the hospital and the few weeks after her death are so scattered. Only in the last few weeks have I felt like I could start processing things more normally.
It is kind to offer gifts of service, but it’s better to just give them.
Don’t overwhelm the family with suggestions on what you could do for them at the visitation and funeral. They have so much on their hearts and minds. They really don’t even know yet what they will need. Wait until after, then call, text, or come by with what you can do. Examples:
“Hey, I can come by and mow your lawn today. Would that be okay?”
“I am in the area, can I bring you some coffee?”
“I’m dropping off breakfast for you in the morning. Anything you’d like?”
“I am going to the grocery tomorrow. I’d love to pick up what you need too. Is there a good time to come by and get a list or would you text me what you need?”
“If you need some time to yourself or to go out with your husband, I can watch your kids Tuesday night.”
It doesn’t matter if it’s a meal, coffee, groceries, babysitting, dog walking, etc. It’s a gift of service, a gift of caring, a gift of love. GIVE IT. If they don’t need it at that time, let them know you’ll ask again. Don’t ever take offense if they don’t need the gift at that time. The grieving don’t know what they need or when they need it. They will appreciate you caring, and they’ll know you haven’t forgotten their pain or their loved one.