When a friend or family member is dealing with a death in the family, it can be difficult to know what to do or say to support them. Any gesture may seem too small for the magnitude of the grief that person is feeling. However, there are a multitude of ways to send a message of comfort and support. Here are some of the best examples of gestures depending on the person and his or her personality you may feel one or more are a better fit than others.

  • Send a sympathy card with a heartfelt message. It may seem simple but a meaningful card to express your sympathy for those who are grieving does go a long way in making a grieving person feel supported.
  • You can arrange for a traditional flower bouquet for the funeral, or perhaps a potted plant that will last a longer time with a kind sympathy message.
  • Send a fruit basket or prepared meals. The grieving persona and their family may not have time or feel like cooking in this difficult time. Organizing a “meal train” where friends and loved ones take turns cooking and bringing a meal throughout the weeks following can be very effective.
  • Sending a memorial fund contribution to help pay for final expenses can be extremely helpful especially for unexpected losses or for the death of a younger family member. This can help lessen stress of financial burden greatly.
  • Send a personalized gift, such as an engraved photo frame, garden stone, or keepsake gift box. Wind chimes and bird feeder can also be nice personalized memorial gifts. These gifts will remind the grieving person of their loved one for years to come.
  • Offer to babysit, assist with cleaning, laundry or yard work. Having an extra set of hands for these mundane chores during a difficult time can relieve a lot of strain.
  • Step in as a “personal assistant” helping to arrange appointments, return messages, and run errands.

When offering support, keep in mind that asking “what can I do?” or “what do you need” puts the burden on them, and that doesn’t help in a traumatic time. It is much better to say something like “I am planning to come over with some hot food tonight, would you prefer pizza or Chinese?” People naturally decline support as they do not want to feel a burden. So by not asking but offering, you are removing the need for them to accept because the acceptance is just assumed.

You may also wonder what is best to say or whether the grieving individual will want your company. This also varies of course depending on personalities but, most people do need their friends and family around them when they’re mourning. When in their presence, follow their lead on whether or not they want to talk about the deceased person. It is more than ok to ask “do you want to talk about him/her? Or would you prefer to have a light hearted conversation about other things?” Some people heal by remembering and talking about their loved ones, others prefer not to be reminded of the loss.

Lastly, continue checking on this grieving person past the first few weeks following the loss. Put it in your calendar to follow up weekly or monthly ongoing. It can often feel very lonely after the services are over and out of town family goes back to their lives and their jobs. It is important to keep checking in to make sure they are handling everything okay and give them an outlet to talk i

About the Author: Pam Reynolds, CMC is the President and co-owner of Allegiance Aging Care Services. Pam has spent almost fifteen years working in senior care including long term care facilities and home health care. Her higher education is in Social Work, and she has been credentialed as both a certified Geriatric Care Manager and Licensed Assisted Living Administrator. Read more about Pam and her team of Aging Care Professionals here



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