It’s a rough mental week for me and I have a lot of thoughts swirling around my head but they have not been put into words very coherently or in a way I like, so they will sit in the drafts for now. Too many work deadlines today prevent me from messing with them, but in order to not break my streak I wanted to make sure I got something up.
Death sucks – whether expected or a surprise. This is not breaking news and yet as a society we also suck at dealing with it. It is so touchy and uncomfortable, yet the desire to do something persists. When thinking back to those dark times, these are ways that people helped me:
Don’t say the deceased is in a better place, even if there was suffering. The deceased may be at peace, but those left picking up the pieces are hurting and may not have the same religious inclinations as you. “I’m so sorry” is simple, expresses feelings, and far less likely to rub someone the wrong way.
Supply food – it is cliche and casserole heavy in the midwest, but there is a reason for it. This does not need to be elaborate or full meals. Dropping off simple fruit/veggies/snacks were so helpful when I was barely able to get dressed.
Show up to the memorial if at all possible. Funerals are for the living and showing up means so, so much.
If you attend the funeral, sign the guest book legibly with complete address and zip code. Your presence will want to be acknowledged and it is so much easier if cross-referencing is not needed.
Stamps are appreciated and something I never thought of until they were needed (so many were needed). Now when I want to make a contribution, but the designated memorial is outside my scope, I buy a couple sheets of stamps and enclose in the card. Sending out thank you cards can get expensive fast and every little bit helps.
Keep calling. You might not get an answer or a call back. Yes, pestering might make the person feel guilty about not answering or calling back. Keep calling and checking in anyway.
Don’t say “if you need anything, let me know.” Grieving people are terrible at reaching out. Offer concrete suggestions – I want to take a walk come with me, let me help address envelopes, can I help you sort belongings, etc.
If you are close, stop over and do menial tasks. Offer to walk the dog, clean the bathroom, empty/load dishwasher, run vacuum, etc. If you would not offend the person – just DO these tasks.
Talk about the deceased – memories are touching. It might cause tears, but there is a void and sidestepping it is so much more awkward.
It is so true that we remember how people make us feel. I will never forget the kindness and compassion shown when I have been at my worst.