“IF THERE’S ANYTHING I CAN DO….”
“We all felt so lost when Dad passed away,” remembers Barbara C— an accountant from Ohio. “So many people asked if they could help, but nobody really knew what to do for us.”
When sorrow strikes a family member or friend, our first – and most proper – impulse is to offer our help and support. Generally, we say something like “If there’s anything I can do to help, please call.” And then we leave, and the family seldom calls.
But there is a way you can be of real value to a family who is coping with the loss of a loved one. Instead of asking what you can do, suggest some of the things you’re prepared to do, and then do them.
For example, at a time of loss, families and friends gather. Some come from out of town, traveling long distances. So if you think through everything a gathering of people generally will require, you can recommend to the family the specific responsibilities you can accept.
People who come together in a group need many things. Hotel reservations. Transportation from the airport. Food. Directions. You can certainly think of others. So, when you say to a bereaved friend “Let me prepare a dinner for your out of town guests,” or “Tell me who needs to be picked up at the airport, and I’ll take care of it,” you are helping them remember all that needs to be done, and taking the burden from them at the same time.
After the funeral, there are other tasks to perform. Here again, it is possible to do much for a bereaved family if you offer to take on specific responsibilities. Family and friends might still need transportation arrangements, restaurant recommendations, or other kinds of attention. And while many of the legal details, such as insurance and pension claims, must be completed by the family, you may be able to provide other types of help such as babysitting, grocery shopping, or running other errands.
The whole idea is this: if you want to help when a death occurs, offer to do something specific. Families who are facing a loss do not have the emotional capacity to think of or attend to the many small details that come up before, during, and after a funeral.
But that’s what friends are for.