Show Up

I have tried to teach my son, just as Big Russ taught me, that as much as we wish it were otherwise, grief and loss are central to our lives, and when somebody near us loses a loved one, we have a duty to show up, to be there to help them remember; to offer a hand and a shoulder, and yes, to celebrate a life.Tim Russert

When someone we love loses someone they love, our immediate reaction is to want to help. But how? What are some of the ways to help someone whose beloved has died?

  • Acknowledge the loss. Send a card, an email, a text. Tell the other person how sorry you are and reassure him that he won’t have to go through his grief alone.
  • Attend the memorial service or celebration of life. Volunteer to be an usher, to entertain a high maintenance or difficult family member or to help with setup or cleanup.
  • Take care of the mundane, time-consuming tasks that your friend or family member doesn’t have the energy for. Mow the lawn, buy groceries, do the laundry, run errands, make a meal, clean the house (or pay for a housecleaning service), wash the car and put gas in it, drive carpool or pick the kids up after school. If the bereaved person’s children are comfortable with you, offer to take them to a fun activity or out for ice cream.
  • If you are close to the bereaved, volunteer to coordinate meals for the family for the next few months. Ask about dietary restrictions and requirements and make sure those who volunteer are aware of them.
  • One of the most amazing acts I know of is what my friend Jessie did for her dear friend Carol when Carol’s daughter was dying. Jessie researched funeral homes based on what Carol and her husband wanted and then made all the arrangements. I remember making those phone calls for Jimmy before he died, and how surreal and heart wrenching it was to have to tell complete strangers that I needed to make cremation arrangements for one of my children who was dying.
  • Sometimes the greatest gifts are the simplest. During the final weeks of Jimmy’s life, my friend Anne showed up to walk our dog, Buster. When Anne came into the kitchen, she discovered that the people who had been staying with us for several days had left our kitchen counter completely covered with dishes, food, dirty glasses, etc. Anne offered to clean my counters but I said ‘no’ because I knew how badly Buster needed some exercise. Anne left with Buster; I went back into the bedroom to be with Jimmy. When I came back out 90 minutes later, Buster was asleep on his bed, and my counters were clean. What a gift ..

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