Our community is dealing with another horrific teen death. Here are a couple pointers for friends who want to help but don’t know where to start:
Don’t just say “if there is anything I can do”, yes there are things you can do. Just do them. Mow their lawn. Stop by and clean. Run errands. Don’t ask. The answer will usually be “no”. If you are a close enough friend just do it.
Give them food but be careful with perishables. We threw out so much bread and other perishable food. If it is frozen, make sure it is labeled and easy to prepare. If you are good at organizing, plan meals with friends over internet sites like Take a Meal.
One of the BEST gifts that we received will sound really dumb. Toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning wipes. Seriously. We had a lot of visitors and all of this came in very handy! Don’t be embarrassed. We all need it and when crowds come and go it is essential.
Give them money. Seriously. There are A LOT of bills to pay, time off work, and short term needs. We really appreciated all the financial help we received. Our church paid for our funeral expenses which was a huge help! These expenses are never planned.
Give a lot of hugs. Don’t overstay your visit. Families are very tired during this time. Don’t try to get into heavy discussions of “why” and “I wish I could have done something”.
One last item: Mourners are often overwhelmed during the first week. Remember your friends a month later, 6 months later and a year later. People forget that mourning goes on for a long time. Anniversaries are hard (see my blog). Don’t overwhelm them during the first week but overwhelm them later on when they really feel alone and sad.