Tuesday, January 8, 2013

10 tips to help a friend who has gone through a loss (the complete version)

Sorry, if you got the first unfinished post of this on your reader.  I accidentally hit "publish" instead of save.  So here is the complete version of 10 tips to help a friend going through loss!

I am certainly not a therapist or an expert on loss, well maybe a bit of an expert if you count that it has happened to a very close family member 5 different times.

Death is hard and it is awkward, people don't know what to do when death happens, they are afraid of what to say, what not to say, how to help.  So from my point of view (and I know this is different for everyone) I am going to tell you some tangible things you can do that really help.

1) Do make contact with a friend who has been through a loss.  Call, Email, Text, Send a card,  leave a FB message.  Really anything, it means A LOT!!! Wven if you don't hear back from your friend (which is likely) just let them know you care, that you are thinking and praying for them.

2) Make a meal!  This is huge!  Often when loss occurs a simple tasks like cooking can seem overwhelming and many people even lose their appetite.   Cooking is such a simple and meaningful way to help someone who is mourning and also remind them that they need to eat.  When we got home after Carrisa's death our fridge was stocked with meals, it was one of the biggest blessings ever!

3) Buy Groceries.  I know this is similar to making a meal (this can be for those of you who don't like to cook ), but even going to the grocery store can become difficult, so buying basic needs like milk, bread, healthy fruits and veggies and other snacks is a wonderful blessing.  My friend, Lynae did this for me, and I had never  thought about it, but I distinctly remember how nice it was to come home to a house fully supplied and stocked and not have to get out and go to the grocery store when I was feeling so sad and out of sorts.  It was such a wonderful gift!

4) Be with the mourner.  This can be uncomfortable for some people, but the last thing anyone wants to feel when going through a loss is alone and isolated.  Just hang out with them, stop by, you don't have to say anything profound, in fact you don't even have to talk about the loss.  Just be with them, watch a movie, give them a hug, ask how to help.  I remember this with all of the losses I have been through, being surrounded by people, people coming over, stopping by, people showing love and support, people just being by our side.  I remember who those people were, I remember those that just simply hung out with us with no words, just presence, it has touched my heart to this day.
Carrisa's house was always filled with people after she died, we needed that
 5) Clean their house or pay for their house to get cleaned.  Last on the agenda for priorities when going through a loss is usually time for cleaning, but as people come in and out of your home, you still have children to take care of and laundry to do the household duties build up.  When I got home from California, Hanna and scoured our home.  It was AMAZING!  Flowers are great too and each bouquet sent to us was meaningful and a blessing, but if you would like to spend your money in a little bit of a different way to help, seriously pay for a house cleaning.

6) Do something.  Rather than just ask, "how can I help?"  Just do something.  In reality there are many ways I needed and wanted help, but I just didn't ask, I felt like I was imposing on people or that it was too much. People who are hurting do need help, they just don't always know how to ask for it. When friends just did something without me asking it was very meaningful and sooo helpful!  If you don't know how to help, ask someone really close to them, or just specifically say, " I am going to help, what is something  I can do?"
People even helped decorate and provide for the memorial service
7)  Watch Children.  If the mourner has children give a hand and offer to watch their children.  Whether that means coming to the mourners home and watching the kids so they can go get things done, or taking the children out and about to do something fun.  When Carrisa died their were many tasks to get done, errands, paperwork, memorial plans.  It was hard to do that with 2 toddlers running around.  Thankfully Carrisa's friend Lyndsay came to help and my sister Danae works in a daycare and was able to watch the girls while we met with pastors and funeral directors.

8) Allow them to be sad.  You don't have to fix everything or give the perfect Christian answer.  It is hard to know what to say. To be honest sometimes the things people say aren't all that helpful, but just the fact that they care is what matters.  In fact, I have had people say some inappropriate or hurtful things, but they were not trying to be hurtful.  As the mourner I have learned to allows others a little grace, people aren't trying to be mean even if their words come across hurtful, they just don't know what else to say.  When my good friend Sarah lost her baby Harper, there was a photo posted on facebook after her death.  There were about 75 comments consoling the family about their loss, and one person actual wrote the comment "Congratulations!"  He just wasn't paying attention, he didn't see the other 75 comments nor payed attention to the fact of what was going on in this families life.  It was a pretty major "fail" but our friends mostly just laughed at how ridiculous it was and Brett made sure to call the person out on their comment.

9)  Attend the service.  If you can attend the funeral or memorial service, even if you don't know the person that died very well it is important to simply show support your friend that did.  I remember after Fran died, one of my co-workers (who I hardly even saw once a week) came to the service.  I am not sure what led her to come, but her support blew me away.
These friends drove all the way from Omaha, NE after Brett's mom died.  They weren't close to her, but they loved us!)
10) Do something Later.  The first few weeks after death people are quick to help, you are surrounded by many, people who help and show support.  After a few weeks and into the following months time for the mourner can be very quite, hard and lonely.  Sometimes this is the best time to make a random meal, stop by, or pick up the phone.  Take your friend out to coffee, or dinner, just check in on them.  Even a year after, or around the year mark,  memories flood and sometimes the hurt is just as strong as when death occurred.  My friend Sara, sent me a card on Carrisa's one year anniversary with a Starbucks gift card, it was a simple and thoughtful way to show she was thinking and praying for me.  I also received many encouraging notes and messages, which meant so much.  These actually were just as important to me on the 2 year death anniversary bc so many others had forgotten. 
DSC_0120 2
My friend Lindsay came over and dropped these off on Carrisa's 2 year death anniversary

I know everyone's needs are different, and these tips reflect a lot of what helped me, but I think many of them can apply to most people.

What has helped you when you have gone through loss?


  1. I absolutely love your family! Excited to see you!

  2. Sweet Reflections Jenni: God has blessed you with such insight. Your words inspire us to be our best at meeting the needs of others. God created us for relationships - Foremost, he created us to develop a personal relationship with him & secondly, relationship with each other. With this model in mind, we know God Always Shows UP. The best we have to offer each other is Showin' UP when needed, even when we Don't Know What to Do.

    Carrisa blessed our (Wright FAM) life in so many ways. She will always be remembered as my otha Good Child. We mourn her loss with you. Although, some time has past, it still pains me to think that she won't be showin' up for dinner or planning the next barn party. In fact, sometimes I forget & I find myself expecting her to walk in the door to give us our "marching orders".

    When you love BIG, you hurt BIG. God designed us for that - Big Love...for this, I have No regrets. Loving BIG will always be worth it! Carrisa modeled that. In fact, the love we give away is the Only Love we Keep. May that be the takeaway...follow in the footsteps Carrisa left behind.

    Thank you for chronicling your journey. Lessons learned will forever be remembered. I am so grateful for the beautiful pictures that trigger those sweet memories with our loved one- one of God's greatest gift to us mere mortals.

    God has allowed great trial & loss to your family. I can't even begin to imagine the depth of your pain & grief. It has been a humbling experience to view from afar. He has entrusted you with so much. All the while, you have endured, never besmirching your faith or your God. To be sure, you have persevered & modeled the Christian walk in the midst of enormous trial in a way which I'm certain makes our Father smile. Well Done!


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