How to help out when someone dies

by Sami

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Have you ever wondered how to help out 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 as we’ve realized in this past week since my father-in-law passed away, there are certain things you simply don’t want to have to worry about. Thinks like cooking, cleaning and childcare.

We have been the recipients of amazing amounts of generosity in this past week 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 not only say thank you to those who helped, but also to pass on the practical tips of generosity I’ve learned as a result of their kindness:

1. Bring Breakfast

(thank you to the Brunks!)
The second morning we arrived at my mother-in-law’s, 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 ware

(also thanks to the Hoffpauirs & Mydocks)
I don’t like to clean, even on my best days, much less when grief and tragedy has 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

(thanks to the Addison’s)
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 this week 😉

4. Bring Frozen Meals

This didn’t happen this week, but a friend said that often she’ll 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 in or 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

(Thanks to the Bakers, Mydocks, Cones & Irvines)
We are lucky to have so many people that LOVE…I mean truly LOVE our kiddos. While our kids really did a great job this week, 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 are being cared for in this way during this 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 know how to make a casserole, but he certainly knew how to meet a need in a time of need 🙂 Suffice it to say, it was a HUGE blessing not only to my MIL, but to ALL of us staying with her this week! (I’m going to leave these gentlemen nameless because I truly believe they did not help to be noticed, but purely because it was the right thing to do and I don’t want to embarrass them 😉

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 possible thank all the families in Hobe Sound and even the out-of-town family by name who sent flowers, meals and more to us this week, but please know your generosity was appreciated by the entire Cone family! (And I’m sorry if I left anyone out above – just know we are truly grateful for everyone!).

And more importantly, your 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!

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

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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 🙂

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!!!

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