5 Actually-Helpful Things Your Friend Needs After Losing a Loved One
When your friend loses someone they love, we don't always know the right things to say or do. We can feel at a loss, and it can be isolating on both sides when you aren't sure how to try to help someone because sometimes we instinctively withdraw instead.
If you're feeling confused or unsure about how you can help your friend after they've lost someone they love, the good news is that there are some major things you can offer to do that can offer them comfort and practical support.
In this post, we're going to take a look at 5 actually-helpful things your friend needs after losing a loved one, which will truly benefit them instead of just helping you to feel better.
1. You to Ask Them What They Need
We know that you have great intentions when you're trying to figure out what your friend needs after they've lost someone that they've loved; we've been there, too. In reality, though, they may need something that you might not have expected.
Even though someone who recently experienced a loss might not always know what they need either, they may be very aware of what can benefit them.
Ask them specifically "what can I do to help and support you?" The answer might surprise you; it could be asking you to run a few quick errands, like to the grocery store or the vet to pick up a prescription, or something as simple as "are you up for watching Netflix with me? I don't want to be alone."
Pro tip: If you're looking for something to do together, but you're either far away or unable to be together in person due to something like a quarantine order, there are options for this. Hulu now lets you watch a show in real-time with friends, and the Chrome extension Netflix Party does the same.
2. Tackling Chores
When you lose someone in your immediate family, the last thing you want to do is worry about having a clean house for visitors or a memorial. And yet the pressure is there to do exactly that.
Even outside of hosting a memorial, you only have so long before the dishes are overflowing in the sink, your laundry is piling up, and there's an odd smell coming from the carpet.
Having someone offer to help with even small tasks like vacuuming and mopping, or running the throw pillows through the laundry can be a lifesaver. When the house is cleaner, it may also be easier to feel better, too.
One small thing to remember here: If a friend has accepted your offer to clean, make sure to ask them if there's anything they may not be ready for you to do. They may not want to change the sheets they last slept in with their husband, or to have their late child's toys picked up from off the floor.
3. Help with Research & Connections
Some people are incredibly on top of the practical side of losing a loved one, especially if they knew the death was impending for some time. Many others, however, are often at a complete loss as to what's actually involved, especially if they're at all responsible or legally affected by a death.
Who do you call? What needs to be done? How soon does a funeral need to be planned, and are their credit debts that need to be settled?
If you think someone may need help with the practical side of things, offer to help. They can always say no if they're uncomfortable. They may take you up even on basic research, like looking up a cost-effective florist with fast turnaround for the funeral, or to help them find a lawyer.
4. Offers of Food That They Actually Want
During a major loss, it's normal to lose our appetites and our energy levels all at once. This makes us not always want to eat... especially if it means we need to do the cooking ourselves.
It's a common practice to show up at the bereaved's doorstep with a lasagne or chicken casserole in hand, expressing our condolences as we hand over the foil-wrapped dish and assuaging our guilt at the same time.
It's much more helpful, however, to ask about what's actually wanted instead of assuming.
First, ask about their favorite meals, any allergies, and preferences. Most people will tell you "I'll eat anything but onions give me acid reflux" or "Spicy food is my comfort food." You may even have dishes that you've made in the past for them that they request outright.
You can also offer to pick up food from their favorite restaurant, or to order their favorite pizza or Chinese deliver. In some cases, they may even be eager to get out of the house and would love meeting up with you in person at a restaurant.
It's also important to ask when they'd like to receive a meal or two. This way they're not drowning in food that will likely get thrown out, and the help can come when it's most wanted and needed.
5. Babysitting the Kids
If your friend lost a spouse, parent, or sibling, and especially if that individual ever helped with childcare or babysitting, they may just need time to decompress and grieve. They also might need time to talk to lawyers, speak to the director, and make plans.
This can be difficult to do with children around, especially younger children.
If you’re good with kids (and particularly their kids), offer to help for a day. It may do the kids some good, too, to go on a fun and distracting adventure, even if it’s just to the movies. Even if they weren’t close with the lost family member, it can be devastating to experience loss for the first time and have the entire mood at home shift.
When your friend loves a loved one, it can bring up a lot of complicated feelings for you, too. You might have to reckon with your own fears or loss or a past loss, or even to wrestle with your own mortality. It can be overwhelming to know where to start in helping someone managing this massive loss.
As you're taking care of yourself, too, check in with your friend regularly and consider any of these five offers that you're able to give. Keep in mind that they may not take you up on any of them; that's okay and normal, too, and your offers are certainly still appreciated. Check in a few weeks later to see if the answer is still the same.
Dealing with grief (even if it's not our own) can be a difficult and tricky process, and having the right tools and resources to tackle it can help with the healing journey. Subscribe to our blog to learn more about overcoming grief.