Today I am going to take just a little bit of time to talk about something that I hope might be helpful.
First off I want to say that while my dad was in the hospital and after he died, I was immensely encouraged by anyone and everyone who spent time with us, offered timely words, gave big bear hugs, sent meals. I was never offended by anything anyone said or did. I am beyond grateful because I know all of these things were done from caring, concerned hearts. It was amazing to experience the love of the body of Christ!
However, now that it has been almost four years, there are a few things I learned through the process that I believe will help me grieve with others in the future and I thought I would share those today.
1. If you are a close friend, go to the hospital. (maybe even if you aren't super close)
Right before my dad died, I had a couple other friends who "lost" parents. At the time I wanted to help encourage them, but I wasn't sure what to do. I would have never thought of going to the hospital because I assumed they would want space and would want to spend that time with family. When my dad was in the hospital and we knew it wasn't looking good, a lot of our close friends came to be with us. There were people from my mom's Bible study and some of Emily and my close friends came and stayed overnight. A bunch of them slept on the floor of the waiting room with us! The next morning after he died, a ton of friends came. Our college pastor at the time was there and he read passages of Scripture to the whole group. I can't fully express how much it meant to us to have so many people surrounding us at such a hard time.
I do know that people handle these situations differently and some may not want lots of people around. If you're not sure, just ask!
2. Just do it.
Like I said earlier, when a friend loses a family member you may feel helpless but you do want to help. Many people told us, "If there is ANYTHING I can do just let me know." This is so kind and means a lot, but the person you say that to is probably not going to know what to suggest. Either that or they might not actually feel like they can take you up on it. I think a better thing to do may be to just do something you know would be helpful.
- Take a meal and/or organize a group of people to bring meals.
- Go over and do some yardwork.
- Take her out for coffe. (She may not want to go, but offer.)
- Take breakfast over one morning. (We had a friend bring bagels one morning and it was so sweet!)
- Offer to help look for important files/documents. (I had a friend fly out all the way from Massachusetts and she helped with this. We would have never thought to ask, but it was so helpful.)
- If you have experience with accounting, offer to help settle finances. (You probably don't want to offer this if you aren't a close friend or family member. But we did have help with this. This is, I think, even more useful when it's a widow.)
There are many other ways that you can help. Just be creative! Don't worry so much about offending or hurting the person. Usually he or she will know that it comes from a heart that wants to help!
3. Ask, "Do you want to talk about it?"
I am pretty sure that most people are afraid to ask this question. They are especially afraid to ask about the person who died. However, I found this question to be very refreshing. I was already thinking about my dad, so it's not like the question was hurtful or made me think of things I was trying to push aside. In fact, sometimes this question distracted me from the sad thoughts and redirected them to happy memories I had with my dad.
Again there may be people who feel differently, so just ask gently. The worst they can say is that they'd rather not talk about it. At least they know you care.
4. Ask, "How are you doing?"
This one may be a little selfish on my part. I had a lot of people ask me how my mom was doing, but not many asked how I was doing. I understand. My mom obviously had a MUCH closer relationship with my dad than I did, and it was definitely harder on her than it was on me. So I definitely appreciated this question, but sometimes it was just nice to hear someone ask me how I was doing.
5. Write a note and/or send a little (practical) gift.
If you don't know what to say, write out a verse, or a passage from the Bible. Since all comfort and encouragement ultimately come from God, what would be better than this?
6. Sometimes, don't ask anything, just be a "shoulder to cry on" as the saying goes.
Before you ask a question, stop and think of just how often the person is being asked that same question. Maybe they are just a little bit tired of spitting out the same response time and time again. When in doubt, go back to #3. If they want to talk about it, great. If not, find something fun to do that may distract them for a little bit.
Again, this post is in no way meant to be a complaint. Like I said, nothing anyone said or did ever offended or hurt me. I only mean to be helpful, because before my dad died, I pretty much had no idea what to do or say in this situation. If you feel that way, don't just ignore the situation. God can use you to bring so much comfort!