Friday, January 23, 2009

What Can I Do?

Three. The number of friends who've lost a parent this week. I'm at a loss, as usual, thinking of what to do and what to say to help or comfort them. On Monday, I ordered this book: What Can I Do? Ideas to Help Those Who Have Experienced Loss. It came today and I've spent a few quiet minutes thumbing through it. Some of it, I think, is great. Other parts seem a bit old lady.

So, I thought I'd ask you. I thought you might know: what do you do when someone you love loses someone they love? Or, if you are the one who's been on the grieving end of things, what's something that comforted or cheered or helped you after your loss? What meant the most to you during that time?

Kind of a somber thought before the weekend, isn't it? I'm sorry. Just need to be there for a few friends this weekend, and am quite unsure how....

28 comments:

betty r said...

What do I do? I give them a hug, say I'm sorry..then am ready to listen if they need to talk. When my parents died I really appreciated it when someone shared a memory they had of my loved one and sometimes not saying anything but letting the person know you are there for them will suffice.

Sue@CountryPleasures said...

Food is always a simple comfort, a lending ear, celebrating the life of a loved one in a special way, just letting them know you are there for them. It's never easy but you will know what to do, you always do.

Pearls To Hide My Neck said...

When I lost my Dad years ago, it was the friends who were around when everyone else went back to their daily lives that meant the most. A lunch a week later, a muffin and coffee after a month. Those and the wonderful cards I received from friends are what I remember.

Linds said...

Never ever say "what can I do", or "just ask if you need anything" because the odds are the person who is grieving will never say and never ask, and you must never believe the words "I am fine". Hah. I was good at that one, and I was lying.

The things that I remember most from when my husband died were the people who simply arrived with things like food. Shopping. One of my friends went out on the day he died and came back with a car load of things including tissues, toilet paper, dishwasher tablets, the lot. People who took the phone from me and did the talking. People who did things. Helped to sort things.Ran errands. Collected forms. Went to the post office.

The words didn't matter as much as the being there and doing. If that makes any sense at all. Presence is comfortingAnd also the people who kept being there weeks, months, a year or so later.

Becky K. said...

You are very gifted in writing. If you knew the parents personally I think writing down some fond memories on pretty paper or a special card would mean a lot to your friends.

After losing my Dad, I immediately just wanted to be with immediate family. Later my friends were able to come alongside and let me know that they had not forgotten him or that I was still missing him.

Hope this helps.

Praying for them is also a big thing!

Thinking of you and of your friends this weekend.

Michelle said...

When I lost my father in 2005 I really just wanted to be alone and cry but what really helpeld me the most was "distraction" or getting out there and keeping everyday life a focal point at the time. I also needed a shoulder to cry on or have someone listen to me. Maybe stay over with them a night and snuggle up in a blanket and watch a movie or drink hot chocolate. Comforting things are great during a time like this. Good luck, Brin.

Life At Camellia Cottage said...

Talk to them, tell them you love them, and you are there for them, and if they need to talk, you'll listen. Then do listen. Don't try to fix it or make things better. Sometimes they just need someone who'll listen, cry with them, and even share memories of that person at happier times. Personally I think that's one of the easiest ways to bridge the gap in your life - remembering the good, sometimes helps you let go of your grief for a minute or two. You are a good friend. Just love them! Blessings, Becky G.

Mona said...

When my mother died a year ago, I received lots of cards saying they were sorry for my loss. But, my most cherished card came from a friend that I was estranged from for a couple of years. In it she talked about my mother and acknowledged the closeness of our relationship and everything we meant to each other. It was the one and only card I received that I felt like someone got it. Of course, she knew my mother. It would be harder to do if you did not really know the person who died. I will cherish her thoughtfulness always. It's funny, the reason we were estranged was because I became weary of her negativeness; it wore me down. Then this beautiful card so kind. People surprise us. MOna

Lovella said...

For me, the greatest comfort was a memory shared that they appreciated about my parent. . .
Also, my aunt brought open faced bun sandwiches with pickles. . which was so wonderful. When you are sitting around planning a memorial for your parent. .there is something about a homemade bun with egg salad and a pickle that just says. . .I care.
Also. . something that meant a great deal to us was a magnolia tree that my parents bought for us when Terry's Dad died. .they bought something that would bloom each year at the perfect time to remember his birthday.
Now, I always buy a rose bush or something like that rather than cut flowers that die. . .

Terri and Bob said...

When I lost my dad in 2006, my closest friends bought me "no brainer" books. They knew I loved to read, and books took me away from my sorrow for a time.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I remember reading one sympathy card that said simply "Such a loss!" That was the sweetest moment because it seemed as if someone understood. I am so sorry that your friends have suffered losses this week. It isn't easy for the ones who need comfort nor the ones who do the comforting.

Lochlanina said...

Just be there for them.
Each person grieves differently, and while one may need to be distracted another might need to sob on your shoulder. Some will be comforted by memories about their loved one, and some will want the comfort of discussing the life beyond the grave, and some may just need the sympathetic Silent presence of a friend.
And take God with you, He will know what to do.

Amy said...

I would definitely bake them something, but wait until everything is over. I think keeping them in mind with some "thinking of you" cards in the weeks to come is nice, as well.

Lindy said...

I've read all the comments so far, and all of the suggestions are wonderful.

Both of my parents are in Heaven, and when they died so many people did so many wonderful things for me and my family.

What touched me the most was when people would just come to the house and sit with us... sometimes for many hours. Just having people there with you helps so much. Many people brought food or soda or paper plates. One friend kept the kitchen tidy, one swept the floors. Friends shared fond memories... or gave a hug. Friends prayed with us, and shed tears with us.

The flowers and cards that people sent were so appreciated, and I have kept the cards to this day.

People coming to the viewings and funeral were such a blessing and support. Just knowing that people cared and were there for you helped us to make it through.

Whatever you do will be priceless. It always is at a time like that... and in the weeks to follow.

There's a little poem that has helped me so much, and I want to share it here. I'm not sure who the author is, but it has truly been a comfort:

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."

Linda Z said...

I usually send a special card. I pray that God would give me the right words to comfort. I usually include a verse God puts on my heart and a special memory or what I really loved about the person.

Also, I know you love to do things that help others. Maybe you would want to donate your time or treasure to an organization that meant something to the person that passed in their honor. When I die, I'd love it if people would make donations to Samaritan's Purse and crisis pregnancy centers instead of flowers.

So blessed! said...

Lots of good advice. I always love getting cards with a special note inside. That seems to touch me the most. My best friend lost her husband unexpectedly while they were on a cruise.It was so very, very sad. I remember someone giving her a book called "Good Grief" that she said helped her.

Corinne said...

I just let them know that I am thinking of them and that I am here for them.
~Corinne

Laurie said...

Being a practical person and living in a community where death is woven into our daily lives gives me several perspectives on this.

In the beginning, we find that it helps to have a "point person" - sometimes the individual is just so overwhelmed that they simply cannot answer the same questions over and over, or they will be exhausted trying to make everyone else feel good about cheering them up.

This person is sort of the funnel through which things can get coordinated, and is extremely helpful in holding people at bay or letting them closer as the grieving individual needs. They can coordinate meals, housecleaning, processing paperwork, etc. Before each deployment, we are required to list the friend/s we wish to be called, in what order, and who will be the friend who comes to the door with the Casualty Assistance Officers.

On a more personal note, I have found that talking about your favorite memories of that person helps, or writing down your memories and giving them helps. When someone dies, it often feels as if a life just simply disappears... no one speaks about that person anymore because they don't want to hurt surviving loved ones. But the silence intensifies the grief.

We've had a lot of deaths around us in the past 3 years, familial and others. This year I've started a project where I go through my photographs and put together a CD of every picture that person was in and share it with their family members, often shots they had never seen. i always write death anniversaries on the calendar and send cards. weeks, months and years later people forget, but it's important to remember the first few anniversaries when the grief is especially so fresh.

Sherry said...

I know that you will do something NOW. What meant the most to me after my first husband died...was a month or two later when someone called and asked, "How are you?"

...a friend showed up at my office and took me to lunch.

...I had air conditioner problems. Our - my electrician came out and fixed it...didn't charge anything.

...I received a call, "Let's go shopping Saturday."

Grief doesn't end after the grave is smoothed over. It revisits when least expected.

Two weeks after he died, a good friend mof mine died. Every year for several years, I sent her parents a card to let them know that I had not forgotten her.

Mia said...

That's all you need to do - be there. Listen. Take them food. Knowing you care will mean more to them than anything.

Diane said...

When I lost my sister quite tragically many years ago, I appreciated it so much when my girlfriend came over and offered to take care of my kids, fix a meal and fold my laundry. Very practical stuff, but it helped out tremendously. Also, it was nice when weeks later someone would call or drop a note in the mail just to let me know they were thinking about me and praying for me. Due to the circumstances surrounding my sister's death, we were involved in court proceedings for three years and those random notes and calls were such a blessing.

BTW - I stumbled across your blog recently and really have enjoyed reading!

Charity said...

All of the comments so far have been great, as each person grieves and processes their loss differently. My father died 6 months after my husband and I were married, I'm an only child and very much my daddy's little girl, it was the worst loss I have every experienced, I didn't know if I could ever be "normal" again. My cousins (who were very close with my dad) were afraid (at first) to talk about him around me, they didn't want to make me any sadder, but when I heard that was their fear, I told them it was the best thing they could do; to talk and reminisce about my dad and share their favorite memories. To know and hear that he meant so much to other people just made my heart sing. The strongest advice I have is to NEVER tell someone you know what they are feeling or that you understand what their going through. It so diminishes that persons grief and process. I had a very well meaning friend tell me she understood what I was going through cause her dad had heart surgery and he almost died (!). There was a huge gaping difference in our stories, her dad lived, my dad didn't. A hug is enough if you don't know what to say. But give that hug or make eye contact, squeeze their hand, do something lest you do nothing, but you don't have to be "the answer". Six years later and I still love to hear peoples stories about my dad, the best compliments ever is when my husband or someone who knew my dad will see me do something silly or make a certain face and they'll say "That was so your dad right there". I love to hear that!

Carolyn (Harbor Hon) said...

When my Mom passed almost 2 years ago, and my Dad passed just last October, my best friends gave me a really big bear hug and said, "I'm here for you if you need to talk." It let me know they were there just in case, but would not infringe on my grief otherwise. It helped a lot and I felt the love in their words.

I bought a book, after Mom was gone, titled A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance, Help for the Losses in Life by Margaret Metzgar that helped me find support services and bible readings for just such times. It has really helped. xxoo

Susan said...

I had one friend who waded in through my terrible Ache & Sadness. Who faced my flood of tears head on and fearlessly. She held my grief along with me for days and weeks and even months later when "it" would arrive again out of the blue and knock me to the floor ...
and I will never forget what she did for me ...
she saved my life.

heather said...

When my dad died, an uncle made a book of memories of my dad. That meant so much!!! Also, a friend had a gorgeous artificial arrangement sent and it had berries and was so beautiful that I have it on my mantle all year. A neighbor sent me a lily that I planted in our flower bed and I received many beautiful cards and meals. Along with a friend that listened to me for a very long time!!!

Cyndi said...

I was told by a dear friend who lost her young son when I asked her what can I do...she said just hug me and tell me you love me. Then do the same with your boys...everyday. I told her ok I could do that. I sent her an email on the anniversay of his death this yr and was told by her daughter how much she loved love me. I think a hug and the question...what can I do? works ok...for some. Hope your doing well, hug my BFF for me! Take care girly!

Patricia said...

I lost my mom and dad 4 months apart - my mom in June 08 and my dad in November 08. What helped me the most was knowing people thought of me - they didn't have to do anything for me. But receiving a card in the mail, or just a phone message on the machine made me feel that I was not alone.....

Kimberly said...

What's helped me lately is a friend who calls and meets with me as we are able. She asks how I am doing when I can really be honest, not in the middle of a crowd where I have to just keep it together, but in places where it won't matter if I cry. She's also brought over flowers on what she knew would be an especially tough day. She's sent cards I can keep and reread. She's given little gifts of rememberance: an ornament that reads "always in our hearts" and one that simply says "i'm praying for you today". I've had them hanging over my kitchen sink where I can see them all day long. She sat with me the other day for an hour just drinking tea with me.
Another idea--my friends got together and named a star for my baby I lost. Don't know how practical that is, but wow-it's special.
Just some thoughts.