7 practical ways to help someone going through grief or illness
Posted on 01 December 2014
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do?”.
Who has said this before to someone experiencing some kind of difficult time or illness? I know I have.
I know we mean well, but it actually isn’t very helpful is it? We do want to help, but in the end we probably end up not doing anything at all.
However, as a receiver of kind practical deeds this year through the initial health issues of our newborn daughter, and recent death of my sister, I can tell you it was when someone helped in some practical way that made the day seem a little brighter. Do something. Do anything. Just do it, no matter how awkward you might feel, how insecure and doubtful you may feel that it’s making a difference. Let me answer on behalf of pretty much anyone and say that YES! it does make a difference!
Things you can do today to help someone in need:
1. Food - Make them a meal, heck buy a frozen dinner! It doesn’t have to be some Masterchef creation, but food is a universal language of love. When we had Lexie just out of hospital, another mum (with four children herself) dropped around a bag of food that she had just picked up from the supermarket - frozen lasagne, garlic bread, a frozen dessert, a packet salad. It was the makings of a meal and it was gooooooood!! Another friend made some homemade soup which we were able to stretch over a few lunches. It doesn’t matter what it is, taking away the ‘what are we doing to do for lunch/dinner tonight?’ question is a load of anyones mind!
2. Finances - If they are visiting hospital buy them a parking pass or transport pass. For the visiting family members, going in and out frequently, parking can get pricey. And if someone has had to take time off work, grief & illness can become quite a financial burden. When Lexie was in hospital, we had just moved home from overseas, and Dave had just started a new job. Some friends gave us some cash and, while humbling, it really helped ease that burden of time off work without pay.
3. Trade Places - Give the main carer a reprieve and when/if appropriate take their place so they can leave the hospital or home and go and take a walk, grab lunch, sleep, or do something to refresh their souls. They may be reluctant, but assure them it will be ok! : )
4. Write a note - Say you don’t know what to say. Say you’re sorry they’re going through this. Say you are thinking of them and praying for them. We can’t take the problem away, but we can just let them know we’re here. When my sister died, I remember my dad saying,
“I don’t remember what every email said, but I can tell you every person who sent one”.
5. Pop in and visit - When Lexie was in the ICU, a couple of friends and our pastor’s wife popped in for a visit. They didn’t stay for ages, but It was so nice to have someone from the outside world to talk to! They often brought a magazine for me (hospitals can be so boring!), & snacks. So thoughtful. If it’s a child in hospital, pack a ziploc bag of colouring bits and pieces, even a few of your own easy to clean toys that might break the boredom and create interest for an hour or two.
6. Housework - Drop by their place (with or without food in hand!) and just take out the rubbish, wash the dishes, clean the toilet, tidy up, mow the lawn. Ask what is overwhelming them in their home and just get in and do it. I don’t know about you, but for me an orderly home means an orderly mind.
7. Look after children if they have them - Take them to the park. Take them for ice cream. Take them to the movies. To the beach. Bring some joy and fun into their lives. Often life becomes all about the grief or illness and it’s nice to have an emotional break.
In our society, generally we are fairly independent. We don’t want to inconvenience others’. And when we are going through stuff, it takes up so much of our head space that we can’t even think of what we need. So whenever you can just jump in you make it easy for someone to accept your help and do the thinking for them. I know they will definitively appreciate it.
Instead of offering to ‘have their children anytime’ come with a plan and set a date make the offer with maybe one or two options ie. “I would like to have your children on Monday or Thursday morning whichever suits you. I thought we could go see a movie/grab lunch” etc. It means less thinking and they can just give preference, they don’t have to come up with any ideas themselves. Or instead of “let me know if you need a meal” say “I have some soup here, will you be home sometime this afternoon for me to drop it off?”.
So to the tune of those famous words…just do it!
Have you been through some kind of tragedy, grief or illness and experienced kindness from others’? What did you find the most helpful?