Most of us have been there. A crisis happens. A tragedy comes front and center on the stage of someone close to us. We reel with the news and want so desperately to do something. But what?
The answer mostly depends on how truly close you are to the person. Hearing of someone that has just experienced a tragic loss or that is going through some tumultuous times can give the illusion that we are closer than we really are. So, we must discern as honestly as possible. Stepping into the elements of tragedy and suffering of another person must mean - in most cases - that we have the right to be there. Of course, if it is a situation with someone who has little or no support system, the rules are different. We are compelled to step in.
FOR A DEATH and you are very close to the person
1. If you are a close friend, go in, give a hug, talk as long as they want to talk, but then - as other people come in - sneak away and clean the bathrooms. Clean the kitchen. Clean out the refrigerator (as much as you can to make room for food that will surely come in)
2. Make sure there is coffee made or hot teas, cold teas, soft drinks, water with lemon sitting on a counter.
3. Find a notebook and start a phone log. Answer the phone and take notes. They will want to read later who has called.
4. Offer to call other friends or extended family.
5. Make sure someone stays at the house while the family goes to the funeral home to make arrangements.
6. Help them think about what they will wear to the viewing and funeral. This will be more important to some people than others. Decide whether it is a big deal or not. Offer to go and shop.
7. If there are small kids involved, offer to feed them and put them to bed. Care for their needs as much as the grieving parent will let you.
8. Offer to make hotel arrangements for out of town guests or find extra vehicles that might be needed.
A DEATH but you are not extremely close
1. If you live close, drop off Solo cups, a bag of ice, soft drinks or juices. Give the person a warm hug and step aside or leave. Feel it out.
2. Call and leave your number with offer to watch the kids, transport people somewhere make a meal, etc....
3. Just pray! So often we feel that if a person doesn't hear from us during those three or four days after the death, they will think we don't care. Not true. They are not thinking much at all. (There are exceptions and you know the people that need a little more "maintenance" than others)
4. I usually wait at least a couple of weeks after the death of someone that I am not very close to - and send a card. Invite them to dinner or a lunch. Call and chat briefly, trying to get them to talk about their lost loved one.
5. If you are not sure, ask a close friend or someone in the family what is needed instead of asking the bereaved. You'll get a more realistic answer most of the time.
FOR A FAMILY WHO IS SPENDING A LOT OF TIME AT HOSPITAL
1. Bring a bag of quarters and a wad of $1.00 bills to the waiting room. (An uncle did that for us many years ago. Never have forgotten it)
2. Bring magazines or little snacks.
3. Just come and sit with them. Let them talk or you don't have to talk at all.
4. Just say "You are sorry" - don't give a sermon.
5. A sympathizing tear, a warm embrace, an arm or touch of the hand can convey your concern more than anything.
I know there are many more tangible ways to reach out to those that need encouragement and a bolstering from others. Share with me what you remember.
Tomorrow I will share some Do's and Don'ts from Delores Kuenning's book, Helping People Through Griefr.