This is something I think that is important for others to know. Stop worrying about if you’re going to say the wrong thing. Stop worrying about offending me. Stop worrying about whether or not I actually need help from you when we haven’t talked in years or you feel like you can’t possibly relate to this situation. I need you. And other people you know need you.
Let me give some ideas from my own experiences for when someone you know is grieving. Keep in mind it’s different for everyone. But I feel like overall these things would help in a loss/death.
- Just show up. Even if they don’t answer the door, they know you made the effort to come over. Some people hate the “pop-in” but it’s still meaningful when you come. Leave a note saying you came and you love them.
- Keep reaching out. I’m having a hard time texting people back right now. But there are so many who just keep texting me every few days or weeks to tell me they love me. I read them. I need that. I need to know people are there whether I write back now or in six months.
- Use your specific talents to do something meaningful for them. One of Denny’s best friends is a stand-up Comedian and he’s putting on a benefit for me. One of my friends drew the most beautiful picture of my little family that I’m so so in love with. Some have volunteered to make quilts with Denny’s 3 million t-shirts. Others have offered to go through my finances with me, save all of his info from his phone, etc. etc. etc. Just some examples of some ways you can help.
- Ask “What can I do to help?” Instead of “How can I help?” Or “Let me know how I can help.” If they still won’t give you something, say “Give me one specific thing I can do for you today/this week.” I promise they need your help. Sometimes I really can’t think of anything. But when someone says that, I know I can reach out to them when I do need help. Be pushy. Take initiative. If you can see something needs to be done, do it. The other day I had three women here all folding laundry including my underwear while I stared at the ceiling. I needed that mental break. Others have taken laundry in garbage bags, washed and folded and brought it back. Some noticed light bulbs were out (Denny and I couldn’t reach even with a stool… yeah we are that short), and brought bulbs and fixed them. Someone takes out my garbage daily. Someone heard my squeaky garage and is fixing it. Someone has asked for my keys and taken my car to wash and vacuum it. People have come and said “I’m watching the kids for an hour, go do what you need to do or take a shower or take a nap.” Do you know how incredibly helpful these dumb little things are to someone who is trying to just get through each day? Not only am I suddenly a single mom but I have to deal with all of the repercussions staring with getting accounts, finances and bills figured out. I have to reorganize my whole house right now. I also haven’t been sleeping. Sleep is a good thing. Not to mention, I have no time to grieve. I’m so worried about my children, their needs and stability, that I don’t get to just sit down for a minute. All of these little things people have done have helped me through this whole process.
- Set reminders in your phone for specific dates. Send a text on the monthly anniversary of their death saying, “I’m here for you.” Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc. Let me tell you about this coming month… Piper’s FIRST Birthday is at the beginning of the month, Mother’s Day is a few days later, and our anniversary (would have been #5) is the 31st. This month is going to be rough. So many significant things that I should be able to celebrate with Denny. Send your loved one a text on these days or a card or go give them a hug. It makes a big difference.
- Stay involved for a long time. I’ve been amazed at the support I’m still getting a month out. I need it. Reach out to your loved one 6 months out, a year out. It’s so hard when everyone else’s lives go back to normal and you’re the only one that has had everything change. Set an alarm in your phone because you will forget.
- Be patient. If they don’t respond, it doesn’t mean they don’t need you/love you/appreciate you. They are overwhelmed. It may take months. Or longer. Be consistent and just be there. They need you.
- Allow them to have all of the emotions. I have been through every one of them. Even Winnie has been going through them. Sometimes she wants nothing to do with anyone else. Sometimes she’ll be so excited to go somewhere with someone and as soon as they come to pick her up, she shuts down and won’t let go of me. But so many have been so understanding of this and have said, “Next time, Winnie!” And allowed her to be whatever she needed to be that day. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and can’t do the things I was planning on doing. Forgive me and be patient with me.
- Don’t tell them you understand. Tell them you’re just sorry they have to go through this. Even someone who has been through a seemingly identical situation is a different human with different surrounding circumstances. You can relate to certain aspects. That’s great! But you’ll never understand completely. So don’t try to. Don’t feel like you have to.
One of the most important things in all of this is communication. Keep asking them what they need. I feel like these could help the majority of people but some people just need different things. And when you’re grieving, your needs can change day by day or even hourly.
I love writing thank you notes and have done it as often as I can for any gift, help, meal, etc we have received in the past. My mom forced me to as a child but now it’s habit and I love doing hand written notes. Guys. I have been trying to keep a list and it’s not even a tenth of the people who have helped me. And I will never be able to write enough thank you notes. This is a good problem to have. People are so good. I’m so blessed.