Print a list of what needs to happen in the next few days to make arrangements for your loved one
Advice on when to remove and distribute
SUPPORT FOR THE DAYS AHEAD
The days ahead will become lonely once the service is over and all the family members have gone home
Loss Of A Friend
Saying “so long” to a friend can be just as sad as doing the same with a family member. Some friends are closer than family, especially the older we get. The challenge becomes figuring out how much we can get involved in the planning and burial process. Your friend’s immediate family is in shock and grieving their loss and you won’t want to be intrusive. You may not even know their family very well, which can create even more awkwardness. Yet you want to be there for your friend and honor them in some way.
If you are a very close friend, and their immediate family lives nearby, please go to them as soon as you can. Don’t call and ask if there is anything you can do. They will tell you they don’t need anything because that’s what we do when we are being polite. Just showing up and bringing a casserole, some muffins or some bottled waters, even, will show them how much you, too, cared for their loved one. And then just hug them and listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to have the right words because frankly, there aren’t any beyond “I’m so sorry.”
Tell them how much you adored their family member and ask if you can be part of the funeral in some small way— if that’s something you feel up to. You’re grieving as well, so don’t push yourself to take on too much.
Here are some ideas on how you can help:
- Speak at the funeral. Read a few verses or share insights about your friend.
- Greet people at the door when they are paying their respects.
- Organize refreshments at the site for the visitation.
- Organize food to be delivered to their home for several weeks.
- Assist with the written program for the service.
- Find someone to sit at the home while the family is at the visitation and funeral.
- Make sure the family members are staying hydrated and taking breaks during the visitation.
- Have their house cleaned.
- Get their mail, check on bills that need to be paid and cancelling appointments.
- Sit with them or stay through the night if they need someone near in the home.
- Offer (weeks later) to hold a fundraiser “Walk” or activity in memory of your friend.
If you live out of town and are unable to attend the services, there are many ways you can support the family:
- Send flowers to the place where they will hold the services.
- Donate to the designated charity.
- Send a personal handwritten letter a few weeks later sharing your memories and condolences.
- Send them a journal with a note tucked inside suggesting they journal their thoughts.
- Offer to have the family visit you to help them “get away” from their surroundings for awhile.
- Send an uplifting book with a note sharing a special story or memory of your friend.
- Plan to visit the family at a later date when the shock has worn off a bit.
- Participate in a fundraiser “Walk” or activity in memory of your friend.
- Knit a prayer shawl and send it to them with a note of prayer.
Self care is important as you process the experience. We have listed some ideas below that may be helpful to you:
- Write a letter to your friend and detail how you are feeling about their passing. Thank them for all of the great times you shared and let the sadness spill out onto the pages as a form of therapy for you.
- If you are not a writer, spend time in quiet meditation reflecting on your relationship and praying for the family.
- Take a long walk and let your thoughts move through your mind as you move.
- Begin journalling your own thoughts and feelings because whatever you are feeling is likely to be normal. Don’t be surprised that one moment is filled with anger and another moment is filled with sadness.
Grief is unpredictable and the depth of it depends on the relationship you had with the person that passed.
If you were very close with your friend and their family, this is a place where you may be able to lend a hand. We recommend that people don’t do anything about personal belongings until they feel like it and that can be up to a year or two later. If a young adult passed that was still living at home, the parents will likely leave everything in tact for a period of time until they feel like they can deal with their child’s belongings.
If your friend was well into adulthood and living on their own, you could offer to help with any changes that need to be handled more quickly. For example, their home may need to be sold and belongings gathered up and removed. Helping with this process, while painful even for you, could be a great way to honor your friend. The family could benefit from a once removed person assisting them with decisions they really don’t want to make. Gathering boxes and tubs for storage and walking with them through the decisions of whether to keep or donate the deceased person’s belongings would be a real gift in most instances. Be aware that they will likely want to keep more of the items now and go through them at a time of their own choosing. They’re in shock and likely unable to fully process that their loved one is really gone. Patiently sorting and storing items in a tub to be processed through later is advised. If you sense any hesitation with them in departing with an item, suggest that they hold onto it until they’re certain of what they want to do with it. That will bring them a sense of relief and help reduce the pressure they are already feeling because you helped them to decide NOT to do anything with that item right now.
You may want a few items for yourself and that’s fine as long as the family initiates the suggestion. There are likely other family members that will want some items as well, so be patient and if the opportunity presents itself, ask about a particular piece that you would like to have in memory of your friend.
As you are going through your friend’s clothes, you may suggest that the family select his or her favorite pieces and have a memory quilt made. Here are a few people that can help create something beautiful that will be cherished and provide comfort for years to come:
Campus Quilt Company
The Cozy Quilter, Inc.
Taking any donated items for the family to their charity of choice would be very helpful. It’s hard enough to gather these items up and decide to give them away. If you can, load the donations into your vehicle and take them for the family. It will help them avoid another very painful event in their grief journey. Here are several places to donate remaining articles of clothing, kitchen-related goods, books, etc.:
Wayside Christian Mission: (502) 582-2241 to schedule a pick up. Accepted items vary.
St. Vincent de Paul: Accepted items vary. (502) 589-7837
Goodwill: List of locations
Cedar Lake Pick-up Services: Accepted items vary. (502) 964-2411
Catholic Charities: Accepted items vary. (502) 636-9263
Dress for Success: Professional clothing—including purses, shoes, jewelry. and other accessories. (502) 584-8050
One of the things that happens after a loved one has passed is people go back to their normal lives. Mostly out of necessity and also because they don’t know what to do or say to the family, once the burial has taken place. Here are a few suggestions on what you can do to help support the family members in the days ahead:
Make sure you mark down significant dates on your calendar. Your friend’s birthdate and their date of passing. This will allow you to be reminded to send a card to the family or even a text message and let them know you are thinking of them on that date. If there were children left behind, Mother’s or Father’s Day will also be tough dates —as will the holidays. Make time to reach out on these dates, too, as people like to know their loved one is being remembered through the years.
Grief Recovery Support – We often see close friends accompany someone that has suffered a recent loss to a grief support group. It’s important that members of the family learn how to process their grief in a safe and loving environment. They will learn they are not alone and that feelings they are experiencing are all normal to the grief journey. And you will also be more educated about what is going on with them and be able to be an even better friend.
Creating a Scrapbook – A few months after the passing, it might be a good way to help the family, if they don’t already have a scrapbook for the deceased. You can assist them in gathering photos and even print ones that have been captured digitally. Write small captions under the photos to help them remember the date of the image and what was going on at the time. They will be able to look at this for years and enjoy the memories.
Stay in Contact – You might make a point of touching base with your friend’s family every few months just to see how they are doing. A phone call or a card to say, “I am thinking of you,” will be appropriate. If you live close, an invite to coffee or lunch will be a great way to get them out of the house and talking about their loved one. Or, ask them to take a walk in a nearby park if it’s nice outside so they aren’t around a lot of people and don’t have to worry about getting emotional. You might ask, “how are you feeling today?” and then just listen. Even if you don’t know a thing about grief, just having someone to listen to what they are going through can release a lot of tension and sorrow. Don’t feel like you have to have answers. Just speaking the truth and saying things like, “I wish we knew why this had to happen, too,” or “I just can’t imagine what this feels like and it hurts me to know this has happened to you,” will go along way. Simple acknowledgements of what they share and mostly just listening will be best.