Grief

9 Things You Can Do Instead of Ask What You Can Do

Written by Kathy Glow

Six years ago, my family received devastating news: our five-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. Our world was officially turned upside down.

Well-meaning family, friends, and strangers alike turned out in droves with words of support, prayers, and offers to help. We are so fortunate to live in a society in which people help during crisis. However, many times it ends up being a bunch of people standing around because they don’t know what to do.

People say things like, My thoughts and prayers are with you. While that is nice to know, as my husband so bluntly pointed out, talk is cheap. They also say, Let me know if you need anything. Many times, the person facing the crisis has no idea what they need. And if they are anything like me, they won’t ask anyway.

Honestly, I’ve been guilty of saying both of these, even since my son’s death. People we care about face so many hardships in their lives – from death, divorce, and illness to job loss, family trauma, and more. Many people feel simply helpless in the face of a crisis. Go ahead and offer your support, prayers, and love; but here are nine other practical things you can do to help a family facing a crisis.

  1. Provide necessities. Drop off some groceries, especially items that get used every day. You can never have enough bread, cereal, milk, laundry soap, toilet paper, and Kleenex.
  2. Make a meal. Bring a freezer-ready meal or all the fixings for a meal when they need it.
  3. Coordinate with friends. There are many meal sites like Meal Train and Take them a Meal which allow you to coordinate with members of a community or church to help a family. Check with your local grocery store to see if they will deliver a meal – many do.
  4. Help with chores. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, clean a bathroom, vacuum, or fold some laundry. These are the last things that get done when a family is in crisis. You can even combine these with a much-needed visit.
  5. Care for the kids. If the family has children, offer to take them to the park, a movie, or out for ice cream. Offer to babysit for free if the parents need to go to an appointment or just need some time away. This is a treat for the children, too, who will be feeling the stress of the situation.
  6. Offer to organize. Paper work and appointments can get overwhelming. Assist with combining all of these into one easy place. Help set up a grocery delivery, dry cleaning, house cleaning, or lawn service. Help them to get bills on autopay. Give them a system they don’t need to worry about.
  7. Send a gift card. Gift cards provide a handy and easy way to get a cup of coffee or a sandwich when it’s needed most – usually between appointments.
  8. Be there to listen. Or not. This is probably one of the hardest things to do. Sometimes we want to talk, cry, and work things out and need someone to just listen. Sometimes we’re tired of talking, but we don’t want to be alone. Be there for whatever they need.
  9. Take no offense. Never stop showing that you care. Corresponding on social media, sending a card or a text, or making a phone call to say you’re thinking of someone is always appreciated. Just don’t be upset if you don’t hear back. Know that they saw and appreciated your kind words. Send them again another day. You never know if that will be the day they need them the most.

Lastly, remember this one thing: anything you do out of genuine caring and kindness is never wrong. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

Featured images from Shutterstock.com.

HVFHcareandkind

About the author

Kathy Glow

Kathy Glow is a wife and mom to four lively boys and one beautiful angel in Heaven, lost to cancer. Most days you can find her under a pile of laundry ordering take-out. When she is not driving all over town in her mini-van or wiping “boy stuff” off the walls, she is writing about what life is REALLY like after all your dreams come true. Her writing has been featured on sites such as Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Good Housekeeping, and Mamalode; but Her View From Home is her favorite place to be. Her blog is at www.lifewiththefrog.com. You can follow her on Facebook at Kissing the Frog.

7 Comments

  • Hands-on being there for someone is such a gorgeous gift. Thanks for spelling out such practical ways to do it, Kathy!

    • People just “showing up” really helped us when Joey was sick. Thank goodness some people are just doers!

  • This is a great list – thanks for sharing!
    The only thing I would add is to #2. Make sure that whatever containers you bring the meal in are disposable or ones that you don’t need back. It’s an unnecessary hassle for people in the midst of crisis or grief to have to worry about returning dishes, pans, etc.

  • Twice this year I’ve set up meal deliveries on TakeThemAMeal.com. What a fantastic service.

    Another time I agonized over sending a meaningful gift to a friend who had lost a baby at birth. I finally sent a packet of seeds for her to plant with her toddler, saying that they had no meaning attached and were just meant as something to do together. It wound up being the perfect gift because she’d already had so much meaning that she needed something that want heavy with emotions.

    Be real and admit that you don’t know what to say is OK, and will probably be met with relief.

    • Jenn, I’m so glad you mentioned this. We also got so many “meaningful” gifts after Joey died. After a while, they lost their meaning. I love that you got your friend something she could do with her other child. You’re a great friend. Thanks for sharing.