This post is as much for me as anyone else. Someday a loved one will be grieving, and I'll want to make it better. The truth is you can't take that pain away. You can't heal the heartache. But I've learned that you can make a difference. I've been so blessed by so many. I wanted to share the things that really helped me through my broken days...
Reach out. Send an email, Facebook message, or text. Call if you're really close to the person. Let them know you're there and you care. I was flooded with Facebook messages, comments, and sympathy cards when my mom first passed away. Most were as simple as someone sending hugs, love, and prayers. I also found it comforting to hear from those who could relate to what I was going through...especially if they gave me hope that there were brighter days ahead.
Don't ask too many questions. Let them take the lead with the details. If they want to share the story of what happened, they will. Focus on just letting them know you're there. It can be so painful to discuss details, so give them space.
Show up. My mom's celebration of life service was packed with people who loved her and loved us. I had no idea how much it would mean to me to have loved ones there until I stood in the church that night. The visitation line was backed out the door and was slow-moving. Some came and stayed for the whole service. Some came for visitation only. One friend and her husband came and waited in line for an hour and had to leave for another engagement before getting to see me. An old childhood friend I sometimes interact with on Facebook came and waited in line just to give me a hug and then had to leave. Whether for 5 minutes or 3 hours, they all showed up. And I'll never forget it.
Do Something~ Don't wait to be asked. The popular thing to say is, "If I can do anything, let me know." Most likely, they won't let you know. It's hard to ask for help...especially when your head is spinning and you're consumed with grief. My dear friend from church set up a mealtrain for my family for those days we were planning the service and just trying to heal. My church family quickly signed up for meals and even provided the refreshments for the night of my mom's service. My friend took care of our dog when we were away, washed my full sink of dishes, put a freezer meal in my fridge (for us to bake or freeze for later), and then sent me colorful flowers just to brighten my day. Her parents sent me a Subway gift card. None of them waited for me to ask. Believe me when I say actions sure do speak louder than words. Being the hands and feet of Jesus is about doing. Prayer is powerful, so please pray for them. Then do something tangible if you can.
Follow up. The grieving doesn't stop with the memorial service. In some ways the days, weeks, and months that follow are even harder. For me, I did feel more peace. More strength. But I missed my mom more and more. I think of her throughout the day, every day. So it's comforting to get a random text, cute facebook sticker, or a phone call from someone who just wants to know how you're doing or just wants to remind you that they're still there.
Our family is close, so we held each other together and grieved together. We still do. But we've also been surrounded by so much love and support from friends, extended family, and church family. They took care of us, and it meant more than I can ever say. So I pray I can always find ways to give others this amazing love that was given to me.