Suggestions for Helping Grieving Families

When we hear that our friends or family members have lost a loved one…we often don’t know what to do to help them.  Should we go visit…or leave them alone?  Should we take something to them?  If so, what should we take?

It’s hard to know what to do sometimes…but we all want to do something

Having experienced a loss in our family last week, I was reminded of some wonderful ways you can help someone who is grieving. 

First….just go be with them.  If you can’t decide whether or not you should “bother” the family…just know that the ministry of “being there” is a wonderful one.  Even if you don’t know what to say and how to act….just go.  The family needs to be surrounded by people who love them and care.  Stay for as short or as long of a time as you feel is right once you’re there. 

Next…should you take something?  If so, what should you take?

You don’t have to take anything.  Just offering a hug and encouragement is enough.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of just being thereBut, if you’d like to take something to help the family…here are a few suggestions:

*Food*

The grieving may not have much of an appetite…but they do need to eat.  Take a nice bunch of fruit…some muffins…a jar of trail mix…yogurt…anything that is easy to eat. 

Take food that will freeze well.  If lots and lots of people bring food, yours could get wasted if it doesn’t freeze easily.  Sloppy joes, casseroles, breads or cookies freeze well and are great to have on hand. 

Take food that will make an easy breakfast for the family.  Cinnamon rolls, egg casseroles and quick breads are perfect because they are easy for the family to eat in the mornings…yet they also freeze well if they aren’t needed yet.

Drinks such as bottles of water or juice are very nice for the family to have on hand also. 

*Non-Food*

When my mom died a few years ago, someone showed up to the house with a big package of toilet paper.  I kind of cracked up….as I would never thought of that.  But, wow was I ever glad they had brought it!  With many, many people coming and going for several days…we went through a lot of toilet paper…and certainly none of us would have felt up for a Wal-mart run. 

Other non-food items that are helpful:  paper plates, napkins, paper towels…plastic containers, food labels and baggies for freezing leftovers…kleenexes (both boxes, and purse sized pouches).

Also, postage stamps and blank thank you cards are needed as the family will need to send many thank you notes out after the funeral.

*For Kids* 

Most likely there will be children who are also grieving, and/or hanging around a bunch of adults who are distracted and distraught.  Consider taking some fun snack foods that kids would consider a treat, cereal, granola bars, crackers, popcycles or juice boxes.  You might also take some inexpensive quiet items like new books, puzzles, coloring books, or even a new DVD for the kids to enjoy.

I hope these lists were helpful, but remember…you don’t have to take anything.  Just praying for the family and being there is enough. 

Please feel free to add to these lists as you leave a comment.  If you’ve ever been through the loss of a loved one, you know how helpful it is to be surrounded by those who care. 
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Comments

  1. says

    Ooh, what a great post idea. You nailed it, Laura! I didn’t know ANY of these things until last week.

    And I have to emphasize FRUIT. We LOVED all the fruit that people brought. It didn’t show up until about the 3rd day and we were so tired of eating all the junk food (cakes, pies, cookies, candy, chips) that the fruit was very welcome as a healthier choice.

  2. says

    In walking alongside my best friend through her journey of grief these past few months, one helpful thing I was able to do (besides the things you mentioned: kleenex, food, etc.), was to do her laundry and clean her house. I would take laundry home with me after taking a meal/spending time with her, wash it at home, and then bring it back.

    Michele
    http://www.frugalgranola.blogspot.com

  3. says

    Laura,
    Thank you for taking the time to share this with us.

    Several times I have wondered about some of these things like this and didn’t know if I ‘should’. Thank you!

  4. says

    This is great information. Thanks for posting. We had two couples close to us that each lost a family member this last week, it was hard to know what to do but these are great ideas.

  5. says

    What a great post Laura! All were excellent suggestions. I wouldn’t have thought of the toilet paper either…how practical. :) I appreciated notes and emails in the weeks following our losses – there have been several. Just knowing I was loved and being thought of brought me comfort and joy.

    I’ve been thinking of you and Sally and the rest of your family this past week. :)

  6. says

    I wanted to express my sympathy to your family at the funeral and the graveside service. I was struggling with how to approach the males in the families… I don’t do so well hugging on people I don’t know. I asked my friend what I should say, and she said something profound.

    “Say nothing. Just go. Hold their hand, hug them.” I got to thinking about it, and she was right. Sometimes the best thing to SAY is nothing. In the Bible, Job’s friends were great… until they opened their mouths and made things worse.

    Great post!

  7. says

    When my Dad passed away several years ago, the one “food” gift that stands out in my mind was the huge cold cut and cheese tray my cousin brought my mom and me. We needed to eat, but we were just not up to the heavier fare of lasagna, calzones and spaghetti casseroles (can you tell our family is Italian?). She included several loaves of bread and rolls and some fruit, and Mom and I were able to just slap a quick meal together that required no preparation or heating, and wasn’t heavy on our already touchy stomachs. We were also able to offer sandwiches to visitors. I always remember this kind gesture and try to do the same for others…
    I’m so very sorry for your loss, Laura. I know how very much my cousin and his wife mean to me, and I can only begin to imagine your loss. Praying for you and your family…

  8. says

    Thank you for posting this. It’s God’s timing, I’m sure. We just got a call last night that my cousin passed away yesterday, leaving behind a wife and young daughter, and I have been trying to understand what to do. This was great advice for me to hear right at this time. Thank you again.

    Peace in Christ,
    Becca