Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How to help after someone dies

I get so many text, emails and phone calls asking what ideas I have for helping someone who just lost a loved one. I usually write back with a few ideas on how to help. I have made a detailed list before, but I feel 4 years into this grieving business, it has changed a bit. So, here are my thoughts. Please do share this page. We all will experience some form of loss or death--- it's just part of life.

Right after the death happens:
 -Send a quick text or email showing love and concern---if you don't send this message, the person will wonder why. I did. I really was hurt by some close people that didn't even mention the GIANT elephant in the room. It's so devastating to lose a loved one, especially a child and in such a shocking way. Lots of LOVE is needed to sustain the family dealing with this burden and every text is welcomed. What if everyone thought like you and said, "oh I don't want to bother them". Then the family would feel pretty lonely and unloved. The family probably wont answer you back and if they do consider yourself lucky, but keep checking in anyway.

-Do something, anything. Don't ask the family how you can help. They wont tell you and will say they are okay. No one likes to ask for help and most have a very hard time accepting it. Anything you do for the family will be very much appreciated and nothing is the wrong thing to do. Really I know ;)

-Offer to take pictures at the funeral and at the cemetery. Every picture will be so precious and important...even the casket ones, if they want this. A professional would be best, but any photos will do. It is usually the biggest event of ones life and lots of family and friends will be attending so pictures will be welcomed.

-Bring over paper goods so there will be no cooking and they can focus on what they need to. Bring with it finger foods, such as rolls, cheese and meat, granola bars, muffins, apples, grapes, oranges, trail mix--things to eat quickly but allows them to still get energy to do what they need to do. The family coming into town might not have time to go shopping, so this will really help.

-Offer to watch their children or pets so they can make funeral arrangements. There are so many details to work out, it's so exhausting and it all has to happen in a matter of a few days. There is no doing it over and most likely you have no idea what you are doing.

-Clean their house and put flowers all over while they are at the hospital so they will come home to a bunch of love. The day we left Ollie at the hospital and came home, we felt so empty and forlorn. We honestly didn't know what to do next and therefore it was very hard to make food, pay bills, and plan a funeral.  Some sweet friends cleaned my house and it looked beautiful, but honestly I was a bit sad because I wanted to see the mess from the ER equipment, the toys Ollie played with, the last memories at home. But I totally appreciated it and think its a very healthy idea. I didn't have energy to clean it myself.

-If you are a close friend or family member, ask to help pay bills and organize this area of their life. The bills will keep piling up and it gets overwhelming, so a clear head might help the situation and relieve some stress.

-Start a fund account. Many funds take a portion, so I found the best way to send is directly to the families bank account. Most people don't expect a young death so they don't plan ahead. We had life insurance for Ollie but it was not enough because we had to fly to Utah and bury him,  plus all the normal funeral costs.

-Offer the extended family to sleep at your house. They will have already paid a last minute expensive price for airfare so, if you can save them money on hotels this would greatly help out. Or offer your skymiles for the family to use. This will be greatly appreciated.

-If they have small children, buy a children's book on grief. Or make a special memory book for the child to have all the memories of their parent who passed away.

-If you have extra money and want to help out, you can offer to pay to print the programs, or pay for headstone, the burial site, or the casket. You can pay for the flowers, a funeral dress for the mom,or  the dinner afterward for the family. You could pay for the plane tickets, the hotels, or the medical bills. It's so unfortunate after a loved one dies, the pain is so heavy and you feel as though you have lost everything, and then you are slapped with all these never ending bills that you never wanted. So monetary gifts are always appreciated and we received many.

I honestly don't know who did what at Ollie's funeral , but everything got done by all the people stepping up and doing something. Every little thing helps.

Some more ideas
-Mow their lawn
-Make sure their garbage gets out to the curb
-Bring over a home cooked meal
-Put up luminaries in their yard to honor their loved one
-Bring over cookies or brownies
-Offer to answer phone calls and the doorbell
-Send a fuel card
-Pray for the family
-Put their names on a prayer roll
-Have your child write a note to the siblings of the deceased
-If you don't know what to do, just offer a giant HUG! 

A few weeks or months after the death:  
-Take them out to lunch
-Keep checking in and showing love
-Offer to babysit so they can have a moment to grieve
-Bring over flowers to brighten their day
-Sit and listen while they cry or talk
-Say their loved ones name often
-Remember birthdays and special events
-Ask how they are really doing
-Don't expect them to keep commitments
-Don't be offended if they don't call you back
-Acknowledge that they are sad and having a hard time
-Send books on grief and loss 
-Ask about their loved one that died, favorite things, personality, favorite memories, etc.
-Just be a constant friend

**Remember, everyone grieves differently and it is a life long journey. Let the person grieve how they need to and don't push them to "get over it already". They never will get over it. Never. And also some people might be offended by some of these things you do for them but that's just because they don't accept service well---like me and most of us. They really will appreciate all the love shown and the effort made.

***To everyone who helped carry us by doing most of these examples listed above, I thank you. We couldn't have made it with out the love and support. You truly helped carry our heavy burdens. We will pay it forward the rest of our lives. Thank you, we love you all! Please share these ideas so others experiencing trials may feel loved---and these acts can be done to anyone at anytime!