Jonathon's Closet

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ways You Can Help

I received an e-mail in response to "My Life as a Recluse" asking for practical suggestions of what to do when an acquaintence dies. So today, I give you this mini to-do list of practical suggestions on how to help a grieving family.

Section 1- during the month or so immediately following the death

1. If you are grocery shopping, please pick up an extra gallon of milk or some fresh fruit and drop it off with a friendly word or note. It is unlikely that the survivors have had the time or the presence of mind to go grocery shopping. If you live out of town, check their area for a grocery store that delivers.
2. If you are at the post office, please pick up an extra book of stamps. Writing thank you notes is hard work. Realizing you're out of stamps halfway thru this project is worse. You can even enclose a book of stamps when you send the family a card or letter!
3. If you are cooking, make a double batch of whatever it is. It is unlikely that the survivors have the energy to cook right now, and the hot meal you deliver will probably be the only one they get this week.
4. If you are taking your children to the movies, please pick up the survivors children and take them along. Believe me, these children could use a couple of hours escape.
5. If you don't want to see the survivors because you don't know what to do or say, please send a note or a card. You don't want them to think they are forgotten, DO YOU?

Section 2 - in the year following the death (Yes, you have returned to your normal life. The survivors have completely and permanently lost "normal".)

1. Make a note on your calendar to call the survivors once a month and offer a coffee/lunch/dinner/whatever invitation. "I'm going to the flower show tomorrow, would you like to come along?" is more appreciated than you can ever imagine.
2. Don't always expect your invitation to be accepted. The survivors are being buried by the weight of a giant grief monster. They sometimes cannot join you. Do not take offense.
3. Please offer to include the survivors children in your carpools. It is often impossible for the survivor to drive the children everywhere they need to go.
4. Look and see ... and do. If the grass is getting long, mow it. If the child is outside trying unsuccessfully to learn to ride a 2-wheeler, take a few moments to help. If you notice the flowers on the porch need water, water them. If you notice that there are no flowers on the porch this year, bring a few extras from your garden.
5. Please ask "how are you doing?", and "how are the children doing" But only if you really want to listen. And talk. And share. If not, it's ok - just don't ask.

So, there's my mini-guide of what to do ... here's a few "what not to do" reminders

1. At the funeral, DO NOT approach the widow with the words "it'll be ok, you're young, you'll remarry"
2. At the wake, DO NOT endlessly and loudly discuss business as if this social situation were set up strictly as a networking opportunity for you.
3. 3 weeks after the death, DO NOT casually say "So, are you going to sell your husband's motorcycle?" This is NOT a conversation opener.
4. When the plumber visits (because the dishwasher decided that 9 days is long enough time to grieve and it's time to get back to a "normal" (ha!) life so it completely explodes all over the kitchen making a huge mess, do not trot your busybody little self across the yard to visit the widow 5 minutes after the plumber leaves to say "So, I see you had a MAN visiting today".
5. Please, Please, PLEASE - do not offer to do something and then not do it. Please DO NOT offer to take the little boy fishing and then not show up. PLEASE.

(Do ya get the feeling like you've just been peeking in my diary?)


  • Thanks for posting this!
    ~Peggie (Club Mom)

    By Blogger Chaos Mommy, at 5:55 PM  

  • I wish I'd had this guide to send around when my dad died. Everyone was so concerned and offering at the wake and the funeral. But after that where did they all go? For all of those who said "If you ever need anything, ANYTHING, call me!" I wanted to pull out their numbers and call screaming "so do you wanna finish my case study project? How about study for my final? Yes--that's right! My dad decided a convenient time to die would be during my senior year of college when all I wanna do is graduate and start applying for grad schools but I haven't been to class in more than a month now because I've been raising my 9 year old little brother because my mom has decided it's ok to hid in random places with alcohol and drugs! By the way--I missed the grad school deadlines--can you fix that too?

    So that's just one of the many (MANY!) screaming fits I felt like having, and often still do. If only people understood that the greiving survivors often don't have the energy and will to ask for the help they need.

    I love you blog!

    By Blogger Mrs. LBM, at 6:29 AM  

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