I wouldnít know what to say. I donít know them very well. Itís too soon. Itís too late. I donít know if I should bring something. Iíll just send a card. There are already a lot of people there. No one else is there. Itís too sad. No one will go with me. It reminds me of when I lost someone. They might be resting. I donít want to upset anybody. Iíll just end up crying. I donít like it when other people cry. Iíll just wait and catch them outside. Iíll do it tomorrow/next week/whenever. Youíre better at these things than I am, you should go. I donít have anyone to stay with the kids. I donít know when to end the visit. I donít meddle in peoplesí business.
As soon as you are finished making excuses, we can begin a discussion on visiting a household that has suffered a loss.
The last article discussed what to say. Hereís what weíll talk about this week:
Doing something is better than nothing
Things you can do
Things you can skip doing
First of all, accept that this is not going to be easy. Necessary, yes, but not easy. But it also isnít as hard as you think. Itís very important to remember that this is not a social visit. Donít expect to be offered refreshment. Bring some with you to share. Youíre not expected to stay long, but you are expected. ďI wonít keep you, I just wanted to express my condolencesĒ and then vamoose. If the person asks you to stay, extend the visit for just a short time. As time goes on, longer visits will be welcome. Again, bring nourishing food and beverage when you go.
It is a time when even the smallest kindness can mean a great deal. Keep your eyes open. Look around. Youíll find something that would be easy for you, that just canít be managed right now by the mourners. Go with your strengths and talents. Be open to your intuition. Think ďHow can I show them the love others have shown me?Ē
Food is probably the first thing folks think about. And itís a good idea. Immediately after the loss, stock the kitchen with healthy items to serve the plethora of visitors. Itís helpful if not all items need space in the fridge. Nuts, crackers, fresh fruit, energy bars, bakery rolls, bagels Ė you get the idea. Leave prepared meals for the family to heat and eat. Your name on any dishes will save the mourners the hassle of trying to remember to whom they belong.
But this is also a time for comfort food. If your pies have won blue ribbons, tote some to the house. Make batches of cookies that can be frozen, and taken out as needed.
Drop off coffee, tea and beverages. Put a bag of ice in the freezer whether there is an icemaker or not. Pick up packages of disposable cups, plates, flatware and glasses. Mother Earth will forgive you, under the circumstances. Donít forget toilet paper and towels, napkins and a box of garbage bags. Depleting the home of basic supplies wonít be helpful or affordable.
A month after the funeral is also a welcome time to bring good meals to the family. The shock has worn off, the crowds are gone, the paperwork has begun. Trying to get back into the swing of things is overwhelming. This is also a time that visits are important. The grieved may just be realizing what they need help with, and there you will be, to the rescue.
A good housecleaning is usually beyond the capabilities of the bereaved, unless itís therapeutic. But tread lightly here. You donít want to imply that the place really needs it! Rather, make it an outing with your club, church or scout troop. While some do chores, others can be in the kitchen with the bereaved, visiting and preparing a meal. If it is perceived as a mission of mercy, rather than a visit from the EPA, makes all the difference.
Hereís a list of other things that might be welcome. The main thing to remember is to be sensitive.
Take garbage out of the house, and out to the curb on trash day.
Bring the receptacle back.
Wash the car
Take recycling to the appropriate place
Do grocery shopping
Clean out the fridge (funeral leftovers)
Offer organizational help, like making a to-do list
Provide child or pet care
Bring a movie and popcorn
Invite them out (eventually theyíll accept)
Deal with holiday decorations per feelings of the grieved
Bring the club to the house for the next meeting (if mourner is a member)
Have the kids do cards and artwork to send over
Send cheerful, ďThinking of youĒ cards. Enclose gift cards to local stores.
Things you want to avoid:
Making changes, unless requested
Being nosy or pushy
Insisting certain things should be done (i.e., get rid of deceasedís belongings)
Incurring expense to the family
Drugs and alcohol
Suggesting activities foreign to the mourner
We can heal the planet, one act of kindness at a time.