I fell asleep last night and woke early this morning with a heavy heart for some special students in my life who have lost a parent over the last couple of weeks. As someone who lost my parents in college, I hurt in a very distinct way for the waves of grief that will flood their hearts for years to come.
In high school, a dear friend of mine was killed in an accident as we began our junior year. When I arrived back at home from the funeral, I anticipated my mom to be at her flower shop next door when I got back but the doors were locked. About an hour later, she came home and told me that she had asked if she could go to the church and load up the flowers and gifts and take them to my friend’s house for her parents so that they didn’t have to worry about it after the services were over. I’ll never forget that moment because I don’t think I’d ever been more proud of my mom. It was just one of a thousand ways I began to see that she served people so well.
This is the kind of service that we as believers are called. I’m thankful for my mom’s example to not just myself but our community.
As a friend of someone who has experienced such a painful loss, we often feel overwhelmed with both wanting to do something to support them and also not knowing what to do. I took some time to write out a few pointers that I pray are helpful to anyone who is walking alongside a friend who has experienced a deep loss.
1. Do something.
Many times we don’t quite know what to do for someone who has experienced loss and we do nothing. Let me encourage you that you can always do something that shows you love and care for your friend and that you’re there for them.
While this tradition seems to be fading with the times, I want to champion the act of bringing food. Maybe you’re not a good cook but I bet you know how to order their favorite food from their favorite restaurant.
Also, small gifts/flowers might seem like a dated act of support but I promise, it does mean so much to see tangible signs of love and support around your home for years to come.
We can all do something for our friends when they are hurting. Don’t let the paralysis of indecision keep you from showing them that you care.
2. Show up.
When I think back on the loss of my mom and then later my dad, I am always encouraged by the friends who came and sat with me, even for just a bit, who hugged me and showed that they loved me.
They may not have been able to come the day of services but they made a point to drive for hours to come and sit with me and while nothing they could say could take the pain away, there’s comfort in the presence of friends.
Show up for your people.
3. Say less, serve more.
When I lost my mom, it was during a season where my best friend had experienced loss just a few months prior and wasn’t in a place where she felt she had much to say in terms of comforting words. instead of trying to muster up something profound, she served me. I came home from the funeral and found my apartment was spotless with my laundry washed and folded. It’s still to this day the first thought that comes to my mind when I reflect on the tangible ways that my people loved me well in that season.
It’s time we all recognize that there’s not much to be said in times of loss but there are vast ways to serve our people and show them that we love them.
4. Ask the right questions.
There are so many errands and tasks that have to be taken care of when someone dies and many can only be done by immediate family. But many mundane, daily tasks that do not stop when someone dies still have to be done and that’s where we can step in.
Many times we ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?” but it’s hard to really delegate when your mind is in such a fog. Instead, be a good listener of things they need to do and errands than need to be run and ask to pitch in.
Can I take that to the post office for you?
Can I pick the boys up from soccer practice?
Can I pick up your groceries?
Or even, “Can I ride with you to handle that?” because many tasks that require an immediate family member could use a good shotgun.
These are just a few tangible ways you can show support to those you love who have experienced loss. Nothing you say or do will take the weight and pain of loss from pressing on their chest but you can take off some of the weight on their shoulders by serving them well in this season.