By Allyson England Drake, M.Ed, CT
Families who are grieving during this pandemic cannot gather with friends and family to provide one another other with support and care. These families may feel isolated or alone, which can intensify their painful feelings of grief. Friends of grieving families may feel helpless or uncertain of how to support them.
I have listed some suggestions on how to support families who are grieving any type of death. This list is not exhaustive, but hopefully will offer some tangible things we all can do to support those families who are grieving at this time.
- Get in touch with the family who is grieving. Reach out by video calls, text, phone, or email and let them know you are thinking of them. It may help to also mention it is not necessary for them to respond back to you.
- Write a hand-written note or card to send your sympathies. Say things like “I am so sorry”, “My heart is breaking for you”, or “My favorite memory of your loved one was…”.
- Stay in touch. Sent a note or text to let them know you are thinking of them often, such as once a week in the coming months.
- When talking with the family who is grieving, listen. Validate what they are sharing with you. During isolation, this helps them feel heard, understood, and affirmed. Feel free to share memories of the loved one. Avoid advice-giving, judging, or sharing your own religious beliefs unless you are asked.
- Send an electronic gift certificate for a restaurant that delivers or for a necessary chore such as a lawn care service.
- Offer to purchase necessary items/household supplies that may be hard to find for the family, such as masks, cleaning supplies, toilet paper/paper towels, or hand soap/sanitizer.
- Organize friends and family members to write letters to the family and then compile them in a scrapbook or book of letters. Friends/family members can write letters to the family about the loved one or tell stories/share memories.
- Order items for the family from places like Amazon that can be sent directly to their house. Suggestions include books; games, activity books, or stuffed animals for children; a candle; or flowers. Other pampering items such as bubble bath, lotions, nice pajamas, or a warm fuzzy blanket may be much appreciated.
- Send photos via mail or email that the family may not have. Or, with the family’s permission, create a memorial online (http://www.fullcirclegc.org/memories/) or collect pictures from others for a slide show of the deceased.