One of my best friend's father passed away VERY unexpectedly in his sleep last night. My friend is distraught. I've offered to bring her family dinner tonight, but that's taken care of. We've set up a schedule to bring dinners to her house so she doesn't have to deal with that. She has young kids.
I feel so helpless. I'm practically pacing the floors feeling antsy and sad for her. Her whole family is coming to stay at her house tonight... to be together. I'm glad for that. A friend and I would like to at least go bring them flowers and give them hugs. I've only spoken to her on the phone... she can barely talk.
If you've lost a parent, what helpful things did people do for you that stick out in your mind? She's not just a casual friend, we're very close. Any advice would be great.
I find the best thing is to just let the person talk, and listen. They will be feeling "shocky" and be unable to focus for a few days, or weeks. It's very overwhelming to lose a loved one, but when it's sudden, it's harder. I've been there. Some people withdraw when they are most upset. But right now she has her family there, and they have to get through whatever type of arrangements or services are necessary. They probably have help now, or if it's not particularly helpful, well meaning relatives who want to help, but will be opinionated about what to do. I find everyone bombards the family at first, and it's in the later weeks and months they need help more. Talk, take them out, offer to food shop, or help with other chores. When she's ready to talk, she'll bring it up. If her Mom was still married to her Dad, she'll be feeling scared and lonely. Include her if you go out, maybe take her to a movie, or even for a ride, don't let her sit around alone. Pay attention, keep asking every now and then what you can do, and your friend will talk. Remember everyone is different, and grieves in different ways. She's lucky to have a good friend like you!
Wow- that is so insightful! I remember my Mom saying how everyone seemed to have disappeared a few months after her Dad died. All the calls, support, everything- POOF! I'm in it for the long haul. Good idea about her Mom, too. Yes, they were still married. He was only 65 and they are now thinking it was a drug interaction of some sort. He'd recently started taking medication for Crohn's Disease. My friend says her Mom isn't able to cry yet. She's all about taking care of business. Everyone will handle it differently, I guess.
There is absolutely nothing you can say to ease her pain. You can't even say something like "I know what it feels like" if you haven't experienced it.
The best, in my experience, is to give a big hug and say that you are there for her. Also, sometimes people need to talk about the parent that they have just lost. Don't change the topic. They need to remember. It's a terrible, terrible thing to happen.
You're doing the right thing by bringing meals. The best advice I ever heard for helping someone with grief is not to simply say, "If there's anything I can do, let me know." Instead, you're supposed to sort of tell them a couple of the things you think they might need, sort of tell them what you would like to do, because otherwise they'll say, "Thanks, but you don't need to," or, "Thanks, I will let you know."
Offer specifics and dates. "My daughter and I want to bring you dinner next week. How about tomorrow and Tuesday at least?" or, "I know you've got a lot to deal with right now, so I'll make sure your garbage gets out to the curb on Tuesday and get my son to mow the lawn if that's okay?" Stuff like that. Specific, as a question, with optional dates or times, but kind of firm. Little pressures they won't know they have, but will realize when they can't throw anything away in five days, etc.
You can take kids to school. Clean the house or do laundry. Walking pets. Cat box duty. Show up in the morning and do dishes. Go shopping for them. Etc.
Such great advice! The good news is she's pretty open to letting me help. She said dinner is all taken care of for tonight, but she will definitely need help with that in the future. I will suggest tomorrow night. I'm going to her son's soccer game tomorrow- to be an extra cheerleader and to be there for her.
I offered to take her kids, anytime. I know they are really grief-stricken as well. They were VERY close to their grandfather.
Thanks for the input.
These are all wonderful suggestions.
When my mother passed away, my sisters from the convent came to her home with me. While I planned the funeral and handled all the folks who wanted to offer comfort or assistance, they ran interference and put folks to work alongside them. They cleaned and organized her house so that when it was time, I was able to pick out what needed to go where or to whom. Mom's pastor came by one day and scooped us all up for a day at the local lighthouse, thinking I (we) might need a break from the work of mourning. It was wonderful. I didn't cook a single meal. Folks either brought food or my sisters took care of it. People did what Shades is talking about. No one asked, they just DID. And, when I stopped and recognized that I needed a friend, there was ALWAYS someone there with open arms.
The simple presence of other people who love us and can be productive when we aren't able to is what ultimately gets us through.
The best advice I can offer to anyone in your situation is to be present and active. Keep the words to a minimum if you can. She will remember little of what you say right now, but what you do will NEVER be forgotten.
Oh, wordscribe43, I am so sorry to hear of this-I understand your feeling of helplessness, but obviously you are on the right track. I replied to shadesbreath's post because he hit on so many other ideas-taking kids to school, etc., anything mundane in the house she needs done, you could assist her in those areas and do her heart and soul much needed good.
I remember when my husband's parents died within 2 years of one another-my reaction was panicked, but I made myself take my hubby's lead when it came to the grieving process.
So try to intuit your friend's needs at this time in her life, and give what you can.
Take care of yourself, too!
Sometimes it is best to just sit quietly by their side and let them know you are there.
It is always good to pray for them, let them know you are praying for them and encourage them to share their pain with Jesus. He has suffered everything we have and so much more so He understands.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
It is important to allow them time to grieve. I know, I have watched many dearly loved ones be lowered into the grave.
God bless you
When my Dad passed suddenly, my girls were just two and four years old. IMHO, screw the meals. There's always takeout. Is there anything you can do to just help with the kids? Even taking them for a walk or out to breakfast would probably be a tremendous help. Everyone needs time to grieve, and they probably don't want to do it in front of the little ones.
I'm with Shades here - don't offer, just do it. She will be having a lot of visitors, so bring round sandwiches or cakes for them, or walk in and make them all a cup of tea or coffee, while she is dealing with them.
Tell her to make out a shopping list of things she is short of, and go get them for her. She will be short of lots of things, having all those unexpected guests in the house. Milk, tea, coffee, sugar, bread etc.
She will be wanting to do things herself, to feel normal, so if she wants to prepare stuff herself, or wash up, I'm sure her visitors will help her, but she needs their company and she needs to be close to the phone in case of calls from the funeral parlour or whatever.
Maybe you can arrange for her kids to have some time-out, away from the grief? It's coming up the weekend now, but if they are going back to school Monday you could offer to take them and pick them up.
She will still be in a state of shock now. The grief will come later. Be prepared for that.
She says she feels like she's on a roller coaster- I told her that was perfectly normal. The two times I've spoken to her on the phone, she can barely talk because she's crying so hard. It just broke my heart.
She says she's taking everything minute by minute. I can't imagine getting through it any other way.
The advice about just doing it is good. There's part of me that doesn't want to intrude on her family right now, though. I don't want to NOT be there, but I don't want to intrude, either. It's a fine line.
Thanks for taking the time to reply.
Wow, this is a tough one, because of how unexpected it is. Regarding their own grief: yes, everyone grieves differently and the immediate arrangements have to be made despite the impact of the loss. And, my question to you is-how close were you to Mr. Best Friend? Because this will also have an impact on you. The loss of someone close brings our own mortality, and that of our closest loved ones, up front and personal. We are faced with, 'what if that had been me?' questions, which bring out our own emotional issues surrounding death.
As one of her closest friends you will probably be able to recognize when she needs to talk, or stay quiet. Your very presence will be a strength she will be able to depend on. Silence is so underrated. You don't have to say a word-just showing up says a mouthful.
Transporting people around for the endless errands-floral arrangements, picking up people from the airport???, grocery shopping, etc. is one way to help.
Quick, healthy foods on hand, along with keeping the basics in the house: granola bars, cheese sticks, fresh fruit and veggies like carrot and celery sticks, bread, peanut butter, jelly, milk, coffee, etc, is important...especially when one doesn't feel like eating or cooking.
Additionally, as Jean mentioned, being there in the later months is very important. It took me 6 months to recover from my husband's death before I could even consider working again. Then, it was the Anniversary of the illness that threw me for a loop.
Best wishes to you and your friend and her family.
You have received some very helpful advice. She will go through the different stages of grief, and each of them present different opportunities to help. It's helpful for her to feel that someone can relate to her feelings and understand her changing emotions. Even if you've never lost a parent or loved one, you can connect to her on a level of compassion and human empathy. Holding her hand or giving a light touch on her back as you move past her in a group of people. She may feel that a part of her has died also. Allow her to talk about her childhood and stories of her father, it will help her feel closer as she is able to express her connection with her father. I lost my husband very unexpectedly, and then later my father, and 7 years later my mother. I loved hearing stories about what they each meant to others. I devoured the cards that shared incidents of times spent with them. Help with my sons meant so much to me.
Meals are important, as she and her children need decent meals to keep their strength and energy. There will be times when she needs space and time to reflect, when she needs to be alone. Let her. Take her kids for ice cream or whatever while she has time to herself. I like how Izzy has shared about 'taking charge' in a supportive way, not being intrusive.
I also have come to accept that life's journey is like a circle of life. Celebrating her father's life and what it meant to her and others is very comforting and healing. Family traditions may become more important for her to keep her father's 'presence' felt with significance and meaning.
She is fortunate to have such a caring, thoughtful friend.
My Dad passed away a year and a half ago. One of the best things our best friends did for me was to basically play the role of hosts (on the day of the funeral). This wonderful couple (we've known them for years) simply showed up with extra folding chairs, an ice chest full of ice, paper plates, napkins and cups. They told me, 'don't worry, we'll take care of everything and just tell us if you need anything'. They knew my family would be meeting at my home. What did they do?
answered the door
answered the phone
emptied the trash
serviced the bathrooms
kept the home and backyard clean
picked up arriving family members
set up extra chairs as needed and arranged seating
entertained my son (he has autism)
brought pizza for the kids
set up a buffet of arriving food in the kitchen
served guests as needed
cleaned dishes as needed
this incredible list goes on.
They were truly amazing and greatly valued. All those little things add up and I can't imagine getting through the day without them. I was able to 'just be' with my family and share in hugs and memories.
I agree with the others. Lots of wonderful advice in this forum. We are all unique in how we handle these things. Losing a parent is numbing and sobering all in one. May your friend find comfort and peace. She is lucky to have you.
This is absolutely filled with wonderful input. The first week or so will be busy and all that needs to be done will get accomplished through the haze of initial grief. If you stay in tune to the needs mentioned here over the coming months your friendship will speak volumes of comfort and strength.
Consider that gently helping your friend stay organized over the next few months might be a huge help to her as she goes through the days that will take her/them to their new normal. She might need that help with everything for a while, or just with her family's schedule, household tasks, food/meals, or something specific to her life.
There's so much good advice here. RTalloni is right, their lives are forever changed now, and they do have to get used to "a new normal." Whatever the Dad used to do, isn't getting done now unless somebody else does it. So your friend and Mom both have all kinds of new responsiblities to add to their grief. If there's any heavy stuff to winterize the house, (it's early yet) but maybe you can organize a group to do heavier stuff for the house. I don't know where they live, but the leaves start falling soon. I noticed everyone seems to feel that everyone kind of "disappears" in about a week or two, and that's when it gets hard and lonely. So don't feel like she doesn't need you, even relatives and friends she hasn't seen for years, or doesn't even know, will be around, and the family has to be nice to them, even if they aren't that helpful. They usually keep talking about their own experiences with loss, which isn't helpful they don't need right now. And if you feel scared, don't you feel it's not normal to need someone to talk too. Honor your own feelings. And we're all here. Take care.
Oh my gosh! This thread is amazing- I've gotten so many great ideas. Thank you all soooo much. The idea about offering to transport people to and from the airport is brilliant! The service is this next Friday and I know it's going to be HUGE with lots of out-of-towners. Everyone has given me a great idea. Thanks so much, hubber friends.
By the way, I spent a while with her last night and she's not doing well. It's also just brutal on her husband- he was very close to his father-in-law. We mostly just hugged... she cried. I cried. We managed to laugh about a few things- one being how she'll have abs of steel after all the abdominal workouts she's getting from crying.
Again, thanks for the suggestions. There are so many things I would never have thought of.
Hi word, just visit her more often, sitting down and listening to what she says.
Let her grieve and as time goes by hopefully it will ease the pain.
It sounds like you're a great friend whose already doing a great job being supportive in a very difficult time. You're letting your friend know you're there for her by opening your house to her family, bringing her food, etc.At this time, those are the most important things you can do. Like wordscribe43 suggested, be a very good listener.
I think everyone has given you good advice. Initially your friend will be in denial, may be angry at times and certainly upset. I remember a range of emotions initially. I did not like those very weepy sympathy cards as they made me cry all the more. The meals are handled and maybe someone can take care of the children some of the time. Listening is the most important thing. Even when we were all so sad, sometimes someone would bring up some funny story they remembered and we laughed. I think there are no rights or wrongs, just being a friend is everything and will become more important after the funeral when all the relatives have gone home. She will need your support over the long haul. I am so sorry for the loss to you also.
Your compassion, love and desire to help your friend is palpable and I'm sure she'll sense the depths of your caring.
I agree with Pamela in that your friend will need your support the most over the long haul when she will be left alone with her grief as everyone else will have moved on with their busy lives.
Though it's good to be there for her when she's feeling down it might help her spirits if the two of you are able to get out together and enjoy a local park, concert, comedy movie, etc. while someone else takes care of her kids.
I don't know if anyone else has already mentioned this, but Sharyn's Slant has written a wise and sensitive hub about what to say to someone who is grieving.
Here's the link to Sharyn Slant's very helpful hub. It's about what to write on sympathy cards but it also contains quotes of things you could easily say in person. http://sharynsslant.hubpages.com/hub/Wh … pathy-Card . Hope it helps.
Sorry for your friend's loss and also your own.
Thanks so much! I will check out that hub... I know "logically" what to say, but man it's sure a whole different ball game when it's someone you're so close to.
EDIT: Do you happen to know the name of the hub? I looked and wasn't sure which one.
My condolences to your friend, losing any loved one is rough, losing a parent is devastating. I lost my mother in 1978 when I was eleven, and my father a year ago this past August. The best thing that you can do is to be there for your friend in whatever capacity she might need. You can bring dinners that are freezeable, casseroles work best, because noone is going to feel like cooking for awhile, and people have to eat. You can also offer to do any number of things from walking the dog to mowing the lawn to answering phones or watching small children so that the adults are free to make the arrangements. My best friend went with me and my family to the mortuary to make arrangements, and his strength and presence of mind at a time when I was distraught were a God send. When it comes to what to say; say that you are sorry for her loss, give her a shoulder to cry on, and share a story, memory or antecdote about her father. I see that someone already gave you the link for Sharyn's hub, it is really a great one. I hope that this has helped some.
I think I've read most of the posts and you have been offered some very good advice. I lost my dad in 2007, it was very unexpected and probably made worse by the fact that my mum and I were the ones to find him dead. In addition to everything you've been told, I might suggest that your friend may also be coming to you and talking about fall outs within the family. Shock and grief bring on amount of stress that you could not possibly image. So much so, that once previously close family members suddenly begin to argue, they need someone to blame and they turn on each other when there's no one else. She'll need someone to vent to. Don't be surprised if you see this, it's short lived and although not very nice, can be part of recovery.
So much great advice here about filling the family's immediate needs and longer term need. So much wisdom on Hub Pages! And so much love and support.
I will try to add some thoughts that are not completely (maybe only partially) redundant:
Don't expect your friend to be able to verbalize what she wants or needs. She can't. She has never been in this place before. It's like being a baby and an adult at the same time. It's really surreal.
Keep offering concrete, specific help, and know that it is all appreciated, even if she doesn't take you up on every possible errand, chore or treat.
In my experiences (all four parents gone), shock and adrenaline will keep everyone going through the funeral.
Then all the hustle bustle and collective energy is suddenly ...gone.
Expect a big CRASH. I mean, BIG.
Which is when assistance with her kids may be most needed so she can rest.
And honestly, don't let up on the meals and household tasks just because the company's gone home!
The other thing to keep in mind is your friend's role as daughter, wife and mother. She has (and will have) her mom's her husband's and her children's grief to contend with. Don't be surprised if that gets overwhelming,confusing, frustrating, exhausting for her. It IS overwhelming. And (I'm guessing) she will feel a responsibility to caretake for all her devastated loved ones. It comes with the territory.
But, it's like they tell you when you fly: put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before your child's.
Here's where your FRIENDSHIP is so, so valuable. Help your friend take care of herself. Walks, runs, gym, massages, pedicures, lunches out, movies -- self-care is not an indulgence!!
She may not be ready to focus on her own grief work and healing yet. And that's ok.
There's no right or wrong way to do this thing. That goes for both her and you.
One final very practical thing you can do. Sounds like there will be a big service. Offer to help with the thank-you notes. Even addressing and stamping them is a big plus. If she lets you write them so all she has to do is sign -- that's a HUGE burden (esp. psychological) off her shoulders.
Please keep us all posted, wordscribe.
Big hugs to you.
Prayer is the best gift to offer. There are so many Scriptures throughout the Holy Bible describing how much God loves us. Maybe write some of those down for her and leave them where she can find them.
I wish you guys lived near to me! I am now taking care of my elderly parents and dread the day I find one or both of them dead.
I have experienced extreme grief before with the loss of both my siblings and two nephews, but this is going to be worse, so much worse.
Do you have any support around you? I suggest you get hooked into support now. If appropriate to your situation, maybe a support group, transition/grief counseling, etc, to help you deal with unresolved grief and anticipated of loss. I wish you peace.
Izzy, I wish we all lived near you, too. I can only imagine the outpouring. You are in my thoughts.
How are YOU holding up? You've received such great advice and support from the community. I can relate to your friend's loss. I lost my mother 2 years ago. I lost my brother suddenly in 2004. I wrote a poem about the loss of my brother, a year and a half later. Couldn't do it before then. So, it will take time for your friend. She is blessed to have a friend like you.
What struck me the most about your post is your compassion for your friend and your desire to help her. When you said that you both are very close, and not just casual friends, my heart went out to you and how difficult it is for you to see someone you care about in so much pain and not know what exactly to do. You are right where she needs you to be, doing what true friends to best: being available.
Take good care of yourself. Glad to see you cried with her. In a sense, you're grieving, too. Keep re-filling yourself with all the love and support you're receiving from this community and give it back to give to her.
Seriously, thank you all so much! I had a nice, long conversation with her tonight. I even heard her laugh a couple of times, which was nice. She was going on and on about how much she appreciates us all making her the her family food... She said it's difficult to accept help. I reminded her we all love her and it's our pleasure. In fact, it helps US to be able to do something, anything for her. She cried a few times on the phone... Evidently they found an old box of his with his high school class ring inside. She said it's all the little things that choke them up, too. Even eating foods they know he'd love.
I agree that she can't tell me what she needs. She did say how much she loves that we are just DOING. I told her I'd be checking in on her everyday, but I'd understand if she needs time or space. She told me her biggest fear is when everyone leaves... she doesn't want to be alone. I said I could just hang out in the kitchen with her while she works in her office (she runs her own company as an engineer).
I also admitted I CANNOT completely empathize with what she's going through... I've never lost a parent. She said they're just finding their way around in the dark. She says it's like planning the biggest, saddest party of her life. UGH! I feel so awful for her. I will be helping at her house after the service, for the family and close friends get-together. I appreciate all the input people have given me there. She asked if a friend and I could make some really yummy desserts, too. I feel happy she's comfortable asking me for things. She's a lot like I am- tries to handle everything alone. But, she said she's handing that old habit over for this. I told her there's no reason to do it alone.
The extended family and close friends will start trickling in next week, so we'll be there. I'm just pretty much on-call for her right now. I'm taking the kids after school next week so they can do final memorial service plans.
I'm doing well because I have such a great group of friends- we're all helping together. I do spend a lot of time worrying about her, though. I kept waking up in the middle of the night last night wondering if she'd gotten any sleep. I kept thinking she must be having the strangest dreams- waking up and hoping and praying it's all just a nightmare.
This is another example of why I love HP so much. I am always so impressed with the community support and amazing ideas here. Thank you all so much!
I am so glad you talked with her and your compassion with empathy is very evident. It is wonderful that there is such a strong support group for your friend and I know that will help sustain her. The way you offered to just be there because she does not want to be alone right now is wonderful and I am glad she is talking to you about how she feels. That will help her sort through her grief. I think anyone would feel very special to have a friend like you.
My condolences with your friend. I lost my father very I was 12 and I know what she is going through. It is more than 25 years that I lost my father but I still miss him and I will be missing him all my life. So just be there for her whenever she needs you!
Your friend is so lucky to have you!! You have gotten so much good advice! When everyone leaves will be a hard time as she will be left with her own thoughts at times. I hope she is close to her Mother. It would be nice for them to have each other to lean on and have time for all the memories. I lost both my senior parents in 2009 and it's still hard. They had been ill for a long time and died within 2 months of each other. They had been married 72 years. My husband has been my Rock! He is my best friend and helped me in so many ways. I hope she is close to her hubby if she is married.. She needs him right now.
It takes a lot of time and prayers.
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