Tips & Tools

When the Call Comes

Ways to Help When Someone You Love Suffers a Loss

 

So your best friend – we’ll call her Henrietta – calls you and says:

“My Mom died.”

You can help Henrietta cope in the immediate hours and days after her mom’s death using these helpful pointers...

1. Be the Gatekeeper

Tell Henrietta that you will handle notifying her circle of friends, co-workers, acquaintances, etc. Since email can be impersonal, here’s a prompt:

SUBJECT LINE:  Sad news about Henrietta’s mom
Dear friends of Henrietta,
It’s with great sadness that I share this… Henrietta’s sweet mom, Camille, passed away suddenly last night.
When the details of the visitation/funeral/memorial service are finalized, I will send you all an update. Please forward this to anyone who may have been inadvertently left off this email.

2. Show Up 

Determine home base – the place where relatives and close friends will gather. The home will fill up with unexpected guests who will come and go. What you can bring:

  • A meal – make it easy and sharable; the less work they have to do and the more people it can feed, the better
  • Fresh-ground coffee and an assortment of teas
  • Disposable plates & cups so nobody is stuck with the dishes
  • Packets of creamers and sweeteners (bottles of creamer take up much-needed fridge space)
  • A loaded ice chest (monitor and refill as needed)

3. Hug, Listen, Help

Once you arrive at home base – drop everything and give Henrietta an epic hug. Follow her lead… she may want to go outside with just you, or stay close by the family.  If needed:

  • Help with the kids
  • Feed and/or walk the dog
  • Clean the dishes
  • Tidy up the place
  • Mow the lawn
  • Keep annoying Aunt Judy occupied

Don’t ask, just do: “Where’s the table cloth and iron? Your mom was a stickler for neat table.”

4. Listen Up

Convey that you can handle whatever Henrietta needs to say or do. You be the no-filter safe space where she can trash talk relatives, slam the funeral director, describe the last moments, voice her dark thoughts and break down.

Throughout the following days…

5. Be the Sherpa

Carry the load for daily tasks that need attention. Tell Henrietta what’s coming:

  • If childcare is needed, arrange it
  • If pets need care, provide it
  • Organize meal drop offs using Meal Train
  • Handle rental car, hotel and flight arrangements for out-of-towners
  • Do the laundry
  • Drop off/return dry cleaning
  • Ask when the relatives’ flights arrive, so you or someone in the circle can make airport runs. Being greeted with “Henrietta and the family sent me” is a much better welcome than an Uber driver’s panic attack because Gramma can’t shake a crying jag.

LONG DISTANCE – BE THERE SOON

If you live miles away from Henrietta and plan to travel for the funeral, you can get the ball rolling remotely with the Gatekeeper email. Once you arrive, do whatever needs to be done. (See above list.)


LONG DISTANCE – THERE IN SPIRIT

If you can’t get there, you can still be there.

If you cannot travel, send sweet/sad/funny texts:

"No need to respond (NNTR). I love you."
"NNTR – call me if you need to vent or cry."
"NNTR – I really wish I could be there for you. It would be great if you could livestream the funeral. Too soon? Sorry."

 

Reach out to Henrietta’s local Sherpa and ask how you can help remotely.

Send a care package with travel-size Kleenex packets, a card noting that you arranged for a meal to be delivered, and whatever guilty pleasure she might need in a time like this.

 

Take a minute. Dig deep. It'll be worth it.