If you need anything, let me know.
When my family and I found ourselves grief-stricken in the wake of my father’s passing from cancer, we heard these words often.
While touched by the kindness, I wasn’t sure what to request. I came to realize, however, that there was actually a number of things friends could do to reduce our stress and assist in the healing process.
The following list is a compilation of ways you can offer love and hope to a grief-stricken friend. Instead of insisting “I’m here if you need anything,” simply offer to do one of the things below. You’ll save them the stress of uncomfortably delegating tasks while also giving them a breather to simply enjoy your kindness.
1. Bring dinner.
As anyone who’s journeyed through grief knows, putting food in your body is hardly a top priority. You may lose your appetite or, in the midst of emotional turmoil or numbness, you may simply forget to eat. However, when a hot meal is right in front of you—especially a much-loved dish from a favorite restaurant—it’s hard to say no. If you have the time and talent, a home-cooked meal in microwaveable containers works wonderfully, too. This gesture is one of the easiest and ensures your friend is staying fueled during incredibly difficult days.
2. Purchase a hotel room for out-of-state family.
People don’t always have extra space in their house where family can crash. Save your friend the stress by offering to cover a family member’s hotel stay for a certain number of days. This is especially helpful for more introverted friends who may prefer a quiet house to reflect on their feelings and would be emotionally taxed by the constant presence of others.
3. Make calls to share news of the passing and funeral arrangements.
Offer to not only field incoming calls but also reach out to those who may need to know about the funeral arrangements. During such a sensitive time, you’ll protect your friend from probing (and sometimes insensitive) questions and take an overwhelming weight off their shoulders.
4. Help set up the repast.
Such a gathering can be a huge undertaking for someone already going through so much. Offer to pick up platters from the nearest grocery store/wholesale chain as well as supplies (paper plates, napkins, utensils, etc.) and then arrive early to set things up so that your friend doesn’t have to worry about it. This allows them to focus entirely on their own healing.
5. Offer a loan to those unable to return to work.
The going rate for time off from work these days in the wake of a loved one’s death is three days. It’s hardly enough time to reorient yourself to life as scheduled. However, most people have no choice. Bills must be paid. So consider offering to cover a month’s worth of expenses (or more) so that your friend can take the time they need to mourn, reflect, and rebuild themselves.
6. Take the person out the house.
Grief can be debilitating, which is why those who struggle with it often remain at home. There simply is no interest to get out and get fresh air. They may also feel ashamed to have fun when their loved one’s not there to share the moment. It’s important to surround this person with love and remind them that it’s okay to continue living life. Invite them over to your house for snacks, a movie, or board games. Take them out to eat. Walk with them in a park. By doing so, you can potentially fend off long-lasting depression.
7. Take on errands and chores.
Mow the lawn. Wash the car. Wash the dishes. Trim the hedges. Drive the kids to their extracurricular activities. These may seem like trivial things, but they all can add up to potential stress. When there’s already so much going on, many of these chores and errands can even go forgotten. Help pick up the slack by taking on one of these things and you’ll be a hero in your friend’s eyes.
8. Offer a listening ear and shoulder to cry on.
It may sound cliché, but one of the best ways you can help a grief-stricken friend is to simply be present. It doesn’t even require words. You don’t have to know the right thing to say. You don’t need to have spiritual texts or Hallmark cards memorized. You just need to demonstrate a willingness to sit in the silence with them (or through the tears, or through the rants) without judgment and without the need to give advice. Let them cry it out. Let them talk it out. Let them do whatever they need to do to move on. Just be there to help them through it.