Thoughtful Gifts for the Bereaved
It’s been several weeks since the funeral was over and everyone has returned home to resume their busy lives. The phone has stopped ringing. The sympathy cards have stopped arriving in the mailbox. The inbox is no longer inundated with emails offering words of condolences. To the bereaved, this silence can feel deafening at times. Many bereaved feel lost and forgotten as they learn to manage on their own. Extended family, friends, and community members want to show support but are not sure how. Below are some suggestions to demonstrate love and caring to let the bereaved know that they are not alone in their journey.
Loss of appetite is a common symptom of grief. Not knowing how to cook nutritious meals, the lack of interest in cooking, or the loneliness of dining alone can all be contributing factors. Consequently, many bereaved individuals experience weight loss after the death of their loved one. Offering homemade prepared meals can be a thoughtful gift for the bereaved. Even better yet, creating occasions to cook or eat together can help to reduce the social isolation that the bereaved often encounter.
At times, the physical challenges of going grocery shopping can be a burden for some bereaved, especially during bad weather. Offering transportation to go grocery shopping with the bereaved can be a thoughtful gesture. Lifting bags of groceries into the car or the home seem less arduous when a helping hand is available. In some communities, online shopping for groceries or having groceries delivered may be an additional resource.
Bereaved individuals who were the primary caregivers for their deceased loved one have often neglected their own health because they were too busy caring for their loved one’s needs. It is not uncommon for bereaved individuals to suffer from physical illness during the first year after their loved one’s death. Provide a gentle reminder for the bereaved to receive an annual physical exam from their physician. Offer to accompany them to the doctor’s appointment if possible. This supportive companionship can help to decrease the stress of a doctor’s visit.
Bereaved who are parents of small children are trying to raise a family while also coping with their own grief reaction. Depending on the circumstances, the bereaved may also be involved in managing the deceased person’s estate or organizing their possessions. Offering the gift of time by babysitting the children can be a relief for the bereaved. This can provide them with the time and space to take care of business or to process their grief emotions.
Grieving is hard work. It is healthy to take a break from the work of grieving by having some fun occasionally. Inviting the bereaved to a social outing can be a good form of distraction. Some bereaved may not feel ready to do this yet; they may feel guilty about having fun or perhaps they are afraid that their raw emotions will cause embarrassment if the tears flow unexpectedly. If so, be patient. Find other opportunities to invite them again in the future.
Experiencing the “firsts” after a loved one’s death can be difficult: the first birthday without the loved one, the first Thanksgiving, the first anniversary of the death, etc. Here, a thoughtful gesture letting the bereaved know that you are thinking of them during this occasion can help helpful, whether you send a card, some cheerful flowers, or donating to a charity in memory of their loved one. Knowing that they are not alone is a gift in itself.
Your thoughtfulness, presence, and compassion are priceless. Allowing them to express their grief emotions and listening without judgement can be a very healing experience for the bereaved. The mere act of offering lets the bereaved know that you are supportive of them and that they are not alone in their grief journey.