Comforting Those Who are Grieving

Rule #9: Words are the best medicine.

When someone loses a loved one, there’s nothing you can do to make it all better. Simple as that. There is no magical phrase, book, gift, meal, embrace that you can offer that will completely erase the pain that person is experiencing. And that’s okay. However, there are other things that can help to ease the pain and reality of loss.

daddy

My family and I were surrounded by amazing people who took fantastic care of us emotionally, physically, and spiritually during our times of need. I wanted to share some of the things that folks did for us/me that made the blow of loss + grief a little easier to bear. There’s no way I could include everything that everyone did because this post would be about 10,000 words long.

My hope is that this will help others to comfort those who are grieving or experiencing a loss in order to soften the blow just a little bit more.

Tissues + Paper Goods

One of my mom’s friends brought us a Sam’s package of tissues and said, “You’re gonna need these.” She was most definitely right. It turns out they came in handy when we had visitors and family over as well. We also received napkins, plates, plastic silverware, cups, trash bags, and paper towels from friends who knew we’d have people visiting the house to talk and share meals. Not having to worry about these seemingly small things made all the difference for us.

Individual Soups – Jason’s Deli

This is a very specific one, but maybe two days after my brother died, we received a random (we still haven’t figured out who sent this sweet gift) delivery of about a dozen individual soups from Jason’s Deli. None of us felt like eating a bit of anything, but soup was something we could stomach. It was comforting, easy to heat, and not having to clean up leftovers was an added bonus. There were 4 different kinds of soup so we could just pick and choose what we wanted. I think we survived on those little guys for two days straight – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Bottled Water

Two of my lifelong friends showed up with 4 cases of bottled water within hours of getting the call about my brother. It’s amazing to think about it, but we actually ended up going through all of that water within a few days. Between us and our visitors, it didn’t take long before all of it was completely wiped out. Grief makes you thirsty I guess. People brought us alcohol, too (which if I hadn’t been pregnant would’ve been my go-to), but the water was what sustained us. It was one more thing we didn’t have to think or worry about.

Serve Food + Clean Up at the Wake

A funeral or memorial service is awful enough without having to rush home to play host or hostess. We had some gorgeous friends who completely took over the reigns for both my dad’s and my brother’s wakes. We never had to lift a finger to serve, restock, or clean. We were able to grieve, talk, cry, laugh, share stories, and heal during that time instead of worrying about those other tasks.

Shuttle Service + Family “Handler”

Funerals bring folks from all over to comfort the grieving family. A family friend offered to serve as a shuttle service for our family members coming in from out of town. She picked up folks from the airport, drove them to and from our house, and to and from the funerals. She was a joy and a blessing to our family! The same goes for the friend who was “our handler” the day of both funerals. We had a go-to person to say, “We need XYZ,” or, “I need a break!” Having someone who can handle you + the things you need makes the day a little less burdensome.

Blankets + Tea

A nice comfy blanket and some delicious tea can help soothe the soul in very simple ways. My mom received a care package with these two items (amongst many others). These are two very small, simple gifts that can help comfort someone who’s grieving.

Thank You Notes + Stamps

Much like a wedding, a funeral is a time when we receive a lot of love in the form of flowers, gifts, and acts of kindness. All of those things deserve thank you cards, and thank you cards + stamps in that quantity can get expensive. My mom received some from friends who knew just that, and it made this part of the grieving process one less thing to worry about.

Flowers + Plants – Not the Death Kind

I have to say, if I see another white lily in my life (besides the one I see in the mirror), I may burn it to the ground on the spot. I know they’re the ‘traditional’ funeral flower, but after seeing so many in my short little life, I’d be happy if the whole species of that particular flower ceased to exist instantly. My humble suggestion is that you send flowers that are colorful, full of life, vibrant! The people who are receiving them are already sad, so why not send something that brightens their day?

After her father died, my mother-in-law received a special arrangement that really tugged at my heart strings. A friend of hers hand-potted a grouping of flowers in a pot meant for the outdoors. I loved this so much because instead of having to throw them away after a week or so, she got to see them grow all season long. I thought that was a very sweet, lasting token of love.

Funny + Random Things to Make Me Laugh

I remember waking up at all hours of the night, unable to sleep, crying, to find myself browsing Facebook. One of those dreary-eyed times, I opened my messages to see that a friend had sent a hilarious video. It had nothing to do with anything in particular, other than making me laugh. I think I actually laughed out loud to the point of waking Jon Boy up. Those moments when you can ‘forget’ for a second and laugh are bittersweet (and necessary).

Stop by Just to Hug + Pray

I remember getting a message from someone who’s known my family since before my brother was even born. He asked what he could possibly do to help comfort me and my mom. I told him that we’d love a simple hug. So, the next day, he stopped by, gave us a hug, and prayed over us. It was a short, ten-minute visit, but it had a lasting impact. Knowing we were in his thoughts after all of these years was something remarkable to me.

Mow the Lawn + Clean the House

We had a ton of folks who offered to do things around the house for us both in preparation for the wakes, but also just because they knew we weren’t up for those tasks. It was overwhelming to have people give up their time to do something so seemingly mundane for us.

Songs that Speak to the Heart

On a few of those sleepless nights, I received links to songs from my friends. Some of them were religious, some were spiritual, and some were just about family + life itself. I remember sobbing as I listened to one in particular (“Just Be Held“). I had woken up at 5:00 AM and there was no hope of going back to sleep. I cried and cried and cried. Those tears were some of the most cleansing tears I think I’d had up to that point. I let myself release and listen to lyrics until it stitched together that little part of me again.

Meal Trains + Packages + Gift Cards

One of the greatest helps to us during our time of grieving and after Corey was born (because unfortunately, they weren’t far apart) was the gift of FOOD! We had some great friends organize a meal train for us, so we received some delicious home cooked bundles of love. We received some gift cards to our favorite restaurants, offering us a great chance to escape the house if we wanted to (or to order to-go). We even got a fantastic meal package (think: Hello Fresh) from a wonderful friend all the way down in Australia. This came in MAJOR handy after Corey was born! All of the food love spoke to my heart and my tummy. Not having to think about the every day stuff is a major help in times of grief + loss.

Words. Words. Words of Affirmation.

The biggest advice I can give is to never stop reaching out. Never assume the person is “over it” and has moved on. I can tell you is that it never goes away; that searing pain comes back in wave after wave after wave. The most touching gifts of kindness given to me came months after my dad + my brother had died. They came in the form of simple texts and phone calls: “How are you?” “I’m thinking of you.” {on their birthdays/days they died/Father’s Day} “I know today is probably a hard day.” I can’t tell you how comforting it was to know that someone was thinking of me, and in an indirect way, remembering my loved ones. That speaks volumes to my little ole heart. It breathed life back into my dad and my brother just to know someone else was thinking about them, too.


I chose today for this post as it marks the 6th year since my dad’s passing. Just typing out that year is bringing tears to my eyes (the people in the cafe around me are starting to worry I think). I know it might be weird, but this picture of him actually makes me laugh way more than it makes me cry. He was just about to be taken back for his biopsy, which would then lead to the awful news that he had terminal cancer instead of something we could fight against.

He was all doped up on the good stuff, ready to roll. The last thing he said before he left the room was, “Hey, Lilly. Call Dave [his brother] and tell him that I’m still the favorite!” [Sibling rivalry being what it is – my Daddy thought he was the Golden Child in the family.] This guy. Still cracking jokes and poking fun on the way out.

daddy

If you or someone you know received or did something special to comfort someone, please let me know! I think the more tools we have, the better we’ll be when the time comes to offer comfort to someone.

I can’t possibly say in words how much we appreciate and remember all the love and help we received when we needed it most (and still to this day). The profound impact of all the generosity and pure kindness we received is something I’ll hold with me for a lifetime.

Much love and Pineapple.

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer
    January 20, 2018 / 7:07 am

    Amazing post reflecting on so much learned, and wow. 6 yrs. and more, as we have felt such grace and faith through your adversity. Whichever way you throw me, I will stand.

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