The death of an individual causes a ripple affect across family and friends – even across communities.
Many times people are at a loss of what they can do to help those that are grieving. I’ve been there and bet you have too.
Now that I have been on the other side of the tragedy, I know how much of a difference simple gestures can make. Here are ten meaningful ways that people helped me in the last year.
1. Take Time to Talk
Give the gift of your memories. Take the time to talk to your friend or family member about their loved one. They may not do much talking, but those of us that are grieving love to hear you memories of our loved one. It means you loved them too.
One of my fears was that my children wouldn’t know their father and that he would be forgotten by all but our immediate families. Hearing friends, family, acquaintances – even total strangers tell me a story or a way that Steve impacted their life helped me realize that he will never be forgotten.
These stories help me focus on the legacy that he left. They remind me to live the story that I would want others to tell.
2. Tell Stories to Children
Share age-appropriate stories with the children that are grieving the loss of their loved one. Steve was a hero to his daughters. They were both daddy’s girls through and through. I needed to make sure that he maintained super-hero status in their minds.
I share stories about how special their dad was on earth and about his character traits that made him an exceptional human being. I also make it a point to talk about their “angel daddy” every day. It may be through a huge bout of tears, it may be a statement about how proud he would be of them, or it may be a special place I take them to that reminds me of their father. We talk about him – and by talking, we keep him alive.
3. Gift a Tree or Plant
One family sent me an oak tree from Seeds of Life as a memorial gift. I kept this little tree in my house over the winter and tried to pick the perfect spot to plant it. I decided on my parents’ house because I wanted to plant it somewhere that I knew wouldn’t change for me.
My father chose to plant it in the middle of their front lawn – right by the play yard. When I asked him why he chose that location, away from all the other trees, he simply stated, “This way Steve’s tree can watch his children play and grow.” The girls know it as Daddy’s tree and they see it every time they visit. This is truly a legacy gift for someone mourning – especially if they have a special place to plant it.
4. Gift a Picture Book
Shutterfly (among others) allow you to upload pictures and make a photo book online. I made a book for each of my girls – focused on pictures of each of them with their Dad. When he passed away they wanted to see him and I knew individual pictures would never last.
Recently I asked Reanna what her favorite book was and she replied, “the book about me and Daddy.” Make a picture book for children or adults. It is still on my list to get one done for me, but I continue to struggle completing one for myself..
5. Write Down and Share Favorite Stories
I asked people to do this at Steve’s prayer service and funeral. Those stories and notes still give me comfort – I share them with our daughters often.
Having stories about their Daddy from other people’s perspective has been wonderful. I would love to have a thousand more stories about Steve. It doesn’t matter if it has been one day, one month, one year or ten years – a written story about a loved one is a treasure.
Take the time to pick up your pen and jot down the first story that comes to mind and give it to the family. This gesture is priceless and timeless.
6. Make a Keepsake
Consider sewing a quilt, blanket or re-purposing other items that were special to the deceased.
Steve loved playing softball and he had a stack of championship t-shirts to prove it. I gave them to his mom who is planning to cut out the logos and numbers and sew them into a quilt.
7. Gift Small Tokens to Children
Find small gifts for children for different holidays or just because as a surprise. They can be homemade gifts or store bought. Some of the ladies that I work with got together and gave Reanna and Kaelyn each gifts on their birthdays, at Halloween and at Christmas.
They also gave me a gift basket full of stuff for Christmas. They were true “treats” – a free day of babysitting, salon/spa gift certificate, bath bar, chocolate, etc. This was very generous and reminded me that people truly care and are thinking about me and my girls. I was touched.
8. Make a Dream Come True
Identify a tradition, dream, or goal of the deceased, the couple’s or of the grieving person. Help make it come true! This is true for also continuing on traditions. Close counts in either case.
Steve had a passion for woodworking. My sister and her husband found the plans he had to make rocking horses for our girls and made the horses for them. Watching our girls tear off the wrapping and ride those horses was the best gift I could have ever gotten. They made one of Steve’s dreams for his daughters come true.
I’ll also be sharing my bucket list soon – as well as how others have helped me cross items off.
9. Send a Card
Buy a card or quickly jot down a note and send it. Even an email saying you’re thinking of them is nice to receive.
Anything that you can do to show that you care and can appreciate their grief makes a difference. Pick a random day and send – today if you have someone in mind!
10. Bring Food
Don’t ask what you can do or what you can make. Simply state that you are planning to make that person dinner one night and ask which night is convenient. Or just make something and drop it off.
One co-worker did this and it left no excuse for me to say no – plus it was great to have a meal. Especially one that I didn’t have to make. After a significant loss it is a struggle to breathe, let alone cook and bake. Getting the gift of wholesome food is amazing!
A big thank you to all of you that helped me in this past year. Your thoughtfulness and generosity was truly touching.
Even though my grieving period isn’t over – I’m not sure it’ll ever be – you helped me to make it through the most difficult time of my life. Thank You!
What else would you add to this list?
Do you have any experience being on the receiving end?