how to help a friend when someone dies

How to Help When Friends or Family are Grieving

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Ann Bacciaglia

Ann Bacciaglia

       When a spouse dies, you grieve the loss of your partner and the loss of your family. Your family is no longer complete; there’s now a big piece missing.

After Darin died, my family stepped in and helped the kids and I so much. I honestly don’t think that I could’ve survived without their help.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, who live five minutes away, took care of us for many weeks. They made sure we had a nice dinner every night and also helped me with house work. Simple things like cooking a meal, cleaning a house and getting garbage to the curb can be very daunting when you are in deep grief.

People often don’t know how to help others who have suffered a loss. My biggest piece of advice is to start by simply offering a hug and asking how you can help.

Often, people who are mourning don’t know what they need or don’t want to impose on others. There are many ways to help and sometimes the smallest gestures can mean the most. Some ideas are: making some meals and delivering them; shoveling the driveway or mowing the lawn; offering to put out the garbage; walking the dog; or driving to appointments.

Becoming a single parent can be scary and overwhelming. If a widow has small children, offer to babysit their children so they can go to a grief support group or go out alone for some quiet time. If the widow lives alone, bring over a coffee and ask them what you can do to help. Maybe they just want someone to sit with them so they do not feel alone.

If you know a widow who is struggling, contact your local Bereaved Families Centre or funeral home. They will have a lot of information you can gather and give to the person who is struggling. Perhaps the widow is scared, embarrassed or simply doesn’t have the energy to gather information themselves.

The most important thing is to let people know you care and that you’re there if they need you. Losing your partner is one of the most difficult things to go through. The range of emotions is deep and complex. Nothing in life prepares you for this loss. Knowing people cared about me and the kids helped us during our time of need and also helped us move forward. It is a long journey but the love and support from family helps the journey become bearable. 

Ann is a widow and single mom. She is learning how to live chapter 2 of her life and is sharing her journey on her blog, Kickass Living.

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