Yesterday someone reached out and asked what I suggest they can do for someone who is going through the loss of a spouse. We have “talked” about this many times, but not everyone knows what to do. Many of us don’t really think about it until someone close to us is going through hard times. I’m glad this person reached out. And then I thought, why not put it out there again.
I would say, the biggest thing that you can do to help, is TO help. Don’t ask what you can do, don’t say let me know what I can do, don’t want for them to ask for help. I know that people really want to help, I have been in the same situation many times. You want to do something to help, but the person won’t ask for help no matter how many times you offer. Here’s the thing, it’s a whole new world after a traumatic loss/diagnosis/accident, anything that dramatically changes your life and who you are forever. I’m a very independent person, I’m a take charge kind of person. While Aires was alive, either I did whatever needed to be done, he did it, we did it, or we hired someone to do it. Once he passed, things changed. Obviously he could no longer do his part, nor help me with decisions, nor help me doing things I can’t do by myself. I had to ask for help. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, it’s not who I am. So when I did ask for help, most of the time someone stepped right up and things got done/resolved. But a few times people just offered to do what I needed help with, but never reached out to tell me when they could do it. They were waiting for me to contact them and ask again. It was hard enough to ask the first time around, I could not go “hey, you know how you said you’d help with blank? Can you come over this or that day?” It just wasn’t me. So some of these things remain to be done to this day, many others I’ve hired people to do over the last few years.
So my main advice is just do. Everyone needs groceries, maybe the person won’t give you a grocery list, but hey, you know everyone needs certain staples, things that won’t spoil. Things like toilet paper, paper towels, wipes, soda, beer, wine. You can also get a gift card to a grocery store, movies, restaurant, spa, anything that you can thing of, if you know the person’s likes, it makes your life even easier. Depending on how well you know them, you can offer to take over some of the bills for a month or three or six, whatever you can/want to do. Maybe you can pay for the landscaping (I had someone do that for me and it was one of the best things anyone could have done for me that fateful summer), you can pay for the cleaning lady, you can get them a ready cooked food delivery service, anything to make their life easier and for them to have one less thing to think about.
And another thing, I know this one is a little touchy. I know people like to help, but they like the recognition. However, once in a while, consider not putting your name on the gift. It’s a simple act of kindness, one that will feel the person feel loved, but they won’t have to thank you for it. Don’t get me wrong, I felt the love anytime someone dropped something off, gave us something, reminded us of how loved and thought of we were. But the ones that showed up without a name, those were even more special, there’s something about the selfless act of giving and the receiving without knowing who was thinking of you, who makes it so very special in such a different way. And don’t stop doing it after a month, or three months, or six months. I can tell you that the pain never goes away, I can also tell you that the second year is in many ways so much worse than the first year. And ten years down the road, it still won’t be gone, it still won’t be easy, it will continue to be painful. If you think of them when you see something in a store, get it for them, even if it’s ten years later, you will never know how much of a difference your little act of kindness makes in the life of someone grieving/sick.
I love you all, I’m one lucky girl, I have the best tribe that rallied around me from day one and has not left my side. But not all people have a tribe as fierce as mine, if you know someone who is in need of help, of a show of love and kindness, don’t think that someone else will do it, don’t think they have closer friends who will take care of them, just do it. You will feel better and they will feel loved.