How to Help When Someone Dies: Top 10 Things to Do

by Sami

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Have you ever wondered how to help when someone dies? When someone dies, whether it’s a close relative or faraway friend, everyone wants to know how to help out in practical ways.

Of course, flowers and cards are nice, but there are certain things you simply don’t want to have to worry about. (Things like cooking, cleaning and childcare.)

We have been the recipients of amazing amounts of generosity in the past and I have learned a lot about practical ways to help out when someone dies. So as is only fitting, I thought I would use this medium in which I am most comfortable communicating as a way to pass on these top 10 tips of generosity I’ve learned as a result of friends’ kindness over the years:

Top 10 Tips for How to Help When Someone Dies

1. Bring Breakfast

The second morning we arrived at my mother-in-law’s after my FIL died, I thought to myself, “I’m really thankful for the pot roast that was brought over last night, but I wish we had something for breakfast.” Not a half-hour later did a neighbor drive up with literally bag upon bag from Walmart containing a wide variety of breakfast offerings, including orange juice, bagels, cream cheese & even Pop-Tarts for the kids. She also brought a variety of household goods, which leads me to point #2..

2. Bring Paper Goods & Plastic Silverware

I don’t like to clean, even on my best days, much less when grief and tragedy have struck! It thought it was brilliant for people to think to bring us everything from toilet paper, paper towels & paper plates to coffee cups & plastic cups. It simply made for one less thing to worry about every day.

3. Bring Meals Individuals Can Assemble Themselves

One night we were brought a variety of cold cuts, cheese, and veggies (AND homemade bread – an added bonus!). It was perfect because everyone could dress their sandwich how & when they wanted. Others also brought salads with a choice of vegetables & dressings. It was perfect because not only did it allow us to extend those meals throughout the week, but it also recognized that there are a number of different taste buds living in the same house.

4. Bring Frozen Meals

A friend said she will bring a meal she has cooked and frozen for someone to eat later when they want. Let’s face it, people often are very supportive in the days initially following a tragedy, but naturally that help tapers off. Bringing a frozen meal allows the help to extend into that time when people aren’t bringing hot meals over anymore.

5. Bring Meals on Trays that Don’t Need to be Returned

I loved when I discovered that people were bringing over their cinnamon roles, fruit and meals in plastic trays that didn’t need to be returned! I initially started freaking out when I thought I’d have to try and remember who brought what so I could return them to the proper home; then I found that almost everyone had brought things in either aluminum pans or plastic trays – brilliant!

6. Bring Cut Up Fruit

Our friends Susie & Amy also brought a beautiful (plastic!) tray of cut up fruit with homemade fruit dip. This was great because not only was it great for snacking on, but the kids loved it and I loved having something healthy on hand that was easy to grab.

7. Offer to Watch the Children

We are lucky to have so many people that LOVE…I mean truly LOVE our kiddos. While our kids really did a great job when my FIL died (they were 6 & 8 at the time), especially at the viewing and funeral, there were times when it was just too much for them.

That’s why I was so grateful to have friends (who are really more like family to us) who so graciously offered to not just take and watch our kids for us, but really play with and love on them! I can’t tell you how happy it makes my heart to know that my kids were being cared for in this way during our time of need.

8. Offer to Help Around the House

When we first arrived at my MIL’s house, her air had gone out and her sink wasn’t working. After just one call for help, it took less than a day to get it all fixed! This individual may not have known how to make a casserole, but he certainly knew how to meet a need. Suffice it to say, it was a HUGE blessing not only to my MIL, but to ALL of us staying with her!

9. Bring Bottles of Water or Drinks

Just think, if people need food, they also need drinks! Several people brought us cases of bottled water, 12 packs of soda, juice and of course, drink of choice in the South, Sweet Tea. It’s also helpful to have it portable form like a bottle of water or can of pop because we were on the go so much.

10. PRAY

Yes, this is practical help! I don’t know how I left this off the first list, but if you read my post about felt prayers from my travels down to Florida, then you already realize just how important prayer is.

Of course, I can’t possibly thank all the families who have shown us kindness over the years as we’ve experienced different tragedies in our lives. But I can learn from them and share the love. Their acts of kindness will now be passed on in the lessons I learned so I can be a better friend and neighbor to those around me when I return home.

How to Help Out When Someone Dies Video

Others Ways to Help Comfort Someone Who is Grieving

I found more videos to help you with other ways to comfort someone who is grieving:

I’ve also discussed different ways to help teachers after the Covenant School shooting here in Nashville. You can even reach out to help those who are helping others when you don’t know someone affected directly.

What are your favorite tips for helping to bless others when someone dies?

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Mary September 4, 2012 - 10:16 am

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I am definitely praying for your family.

Your tips are just wonderful – when we had a similar situation in our family my son’s preschool put together a huge snack basket for my children. It had all yummy, healthy snacks they could just grab by themselves. Talk about a blessing!!

The community of believers is an amazing gift. I am so glad you are surrounded by love.

sami September 4, 2012 - 11:29 am

Love the idea of a snack basket Mary – thank you for sharing and more importantly, thanks for your prayers!!!

linda Deckard September 2, 2012 - 6:10 pm

Sami, thank you so much for posting this. Even though I am older I am sometimes not sure just how to reach out to others in various situations. I can say that I do try and pray and my thoughts are with the people, but unfortunately they can not feel my thoughts. I am so appreciative of the wisdom of those younger than myself that can help me to see things more clearly. After reading your post I will be more pro active in times of need.
I have been sending prayers your way for the family. Have a safe trip back home .

sami September 2, 2012 - 7:18 pm

Linda – thank you for those wise words and you reminded me of the most important thing that should be on that list – PRAYER!!! Though it may not be tangible, it is practical!
So grateful for you 🙂

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