A few weeks ago, my grandpa passed away. I shared a little bit more about him in this post. While his death wasn’t unexpected, it was (and is) still really hard. It’s a big loss for our family. I woke up in the middle of the night recently thinking of how grateful I was for big and small ways people showed up for me during this time and wanted to write it down. A few years ago I wrote a blog post How to Support New Parents and middle-of-the-night me thought it would be important to share some ways to support those going through loss.
Hopefully this is helpful for someone as all of us inevitably know someone who will lose someone they care for dearly. Also, please keep in mind I’m sharing this with the perspective of losing a grandparent. This list look different (in some ways) for supporting a friend who had a miscarriage, lost a child, etc. But, I do think there are some general takeaways for how to support someone during a loss that might be beneficial.
- Acknowledging the loss – this is one of the most important things, in my opinion. Acting like nothing happened or avoiding a conversation isn’t cool. Especially for a close friend who experienced loss. At the very minimum, comment/DM after (if) someone shares on social media. I personally felt very supported and cared for by getting texts from friends from different phases of life — high school friends, college friends, San Francisco friends, Nashville friends, work friends, etc — it doesn’t need to be fancy or anything. Something like “I’m so sorry about your loss [Grandpa]. Thinking of your family.”
- Send Flowers – okay, okay this one is obviously not a surprise, but flowers did really brighten my mom’s home after my grandpa’s death. Sending flowers to the funeral directly is a great option (usually there’s a way to do so via the funeral home service/linked in the online obituary) but we loved getting flowers to the house, too. The funeral was already so overwhelming that flowers were the last thing on anyone’s mind — but having them come to the house felt like a breath of fresh air after a long day. I think flowers are very appropriate gift for someone who lost a grandparent or older relative, but I have heard that sending flowers might not be the best for someone who, let’s say, lost a child. Sometimes
- Relay the news (but ask first!) – sometimes, after someone experiences a loss, they don’t want to be the one to tell others right away. Even close friends! I tell my best friends everything, but right after my Grandpa died, it felt really overwhelming to just text my friends out of nowhere and be like “hey guys…this happened.” Eric texted my close friends and gave them the heads up and from there, they each individually texted me and checked in and we chatted that way. For some reason, it felt like A LOT for me to update people, but knew that people who cared about me would want to know. So – having a messenger (in this case, my husband) relay the news was something that was really helpful for me. I was able to just soak in their kindness, encouragement, and support without worrying if I was dumping my bad news on them out of nowhere.
- Venmo – this is the easiest, quickest way to support someone! I love this because it doesn’t require the recipient to respond…it simply shows them “hey, I’m thinking of you.” I had a few people Venmo me $5 for a coffee on them, which was just such a surprise, sweet way that made me feel supported and cared for. You could also Venmo more $$ to cover the cost of someone’s takeout, etc. Don’t overthink it! Venmoing is a great way to let someone know you are thinking of them.
- Listening / learning / reading about the person – I shared about my loss on social media, and I received so many encouraging messages, but the ones that stuck out to me were from people who spent the time reading the stories I shared, looking at the photos, and trying to get to know my Grandpa through that post. Comments validating how wonderful of a person he was or saying “thank you for sharing him with us” just made me feel really cared for.
- Take something off their plate – unfortunately, when loss happens, work and life continues spinning on. One tangible, practical way to help someone experiencing loss is to take something off their plate. For me, when my Grandpa died, I knew we would need to change/cancel our flights because of the funeral. Eric just cancelled them for me, along with calling Lucy’s school, coordinating with our babysitters, and other things that needed to be arranged/updated given our family’s schedule changes. Not having to deal with logistics like this when you’re in the middle of a loss is really, really helpful. A few years ago, a dear friend and fellow entrepreneur lost her dad, and one way I was able to support her was by helping her with her work. When you’re self-employed, there often aren’t other colleagues there to share the workload. I was able to support my friend by taking over some of her social media work for a client during the week of her dad’s funeral and I was HAPPY to do it. It was a tangible way I was able to support my friend during her loss.
- Plant a Tree in Their Loved One’s Honor – this was something so touching and thoughtful that Eric’s colleagues did for us! They ordered memorial trees to be planted in honor of my grandpa. The trees are planted by the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service in forests in need. You can send the recipient (the person who experienced the loss) the official certificate for their memorial trees and they are able to look up the trees in the official Arbor Day tree registry. The trees were planted in Michigan (where my grandpa lived most of his life) — so so special.
- Food, immediately – this is something thoughtful and important you can do to help someone who lives in proximity to you after a loss. After my grandpa passed away, within two hours, one of my aunt’s good friends left a ton of food on the porch….tons of subs (for like 20 people), beverages, snacks, easy breakfast items for the next day, etc. She wasn’t asked to bring food, and never asked questions — she just dropped the food off. And I was left thinking – what a wonderful way to support someone. Not bombarding them with questions – just filling an immediate need. People were / would be hungry, and magically, food showed up. It was something I’ll never forget.
- Food, after the dust settles – often, there’s a lot of attention and support right after a loss, but after a few days (or weeks) things just trickle off. My friend dropped off dinner for us after we got back from our long drive home from Ohio (this was several days after my Grandpa’s passing), and it was so nice to not have to think about food that evening. It was nice having that support days later after coming out of an emotionally heavy couple of days.
- Checking in – as mentioned, a lot of people text and share condolences and show support right after a death, but there’s something really important about check-ins AFTER. For my friend who lost a baby, this means checking in and letting her know I’m thinking of her around the time she lost the baby and also around the baby’s original due date. In my case after losing my Grandpa, it was really sweet when a friend messaged me the day of the funeral (after she had already reached out right after the death) saying she was thinking of me. Here’s what it said (I just re-read it and started crying): “Thinking of you all today. I hope it brought some closure and warmth to all the memories you all have and that you were able to truly celebrate his remarkable life.” It was just so thoughtful and kind.
Obviously, this list is not at all exhaustive, and every situation is a little different, especially given your relationship to the person who lost someone, and the person they lost. Thank you for reading. <3
*photo from my grandparent’s farm