Relationships can be changed or strained in times of stress- being responsive and supportive in times of grief, illness or personal troubles is probably the most important time to foster your relationships, and it doesn’t have to cost anything.
Illness and death are two facts of life that usually come at unexpected times. It’s vital to promptly show your support as fastidiously as possible, but also to do a follow-up weeks after. We often think of sympathy cards and flower arrangements, but as we know, the best things in life are free- or at least, inexpensive!
-Have Sympathy, Thinking Of You and Get Well Notes on Hand: Promptness is key and sometimes it’s impossible to get to a store to buy cards and get it in the mail quickly. Sadly, sometimes the hassle of getting to a card store might prevent us from taking steps to express our condolences. Purchase a pack of cards ahead of time, so that if you’re in a pinch and cannot go hand-pick one out, you can at least get something in the mail with a heartfelt note promptly. Cards can be picked up 2/1.00 at a Dollar Store, or in a 10 pack at Hallmark or other card stores. The card doesn’t have to be expensive, but getting it out quickly and with the right sentiment is what counts to make a statement.
-Realize You Don’t Have to Send Expensive Flowers: It’s easy to feel intimidated when someone you know is going through a rough time, especially if you aren’t sure how to express yourself to them- having a bouquet or plant sent can be an easy way to show you care without having to verbalize your sentiments, but sending flowers will easily cost $40-$100, and purchasing them remotely might yield less than great results. A house plant, hand-delivered will be cheaper and quite possibly, more meaningful.
If you feel the need to give a gift, know a small donation to a charity in honor of someone in any amount can be a very heartfelt gesture. You don’t have disclose how much was donated, but knowing that a charitable gift was made in their honor, or for someone they’re grieving could let someone know you care.
-Know That Even When You Don’t Know What To Say, You Need To Say It: Everyone deals with bad news and loss differently- I admit, even though I have lost dear loved ones and know what it can “feel like,” it sometimes is hard to reach out and articulate my sadness for someone going through that process on their own. Step out of your comfort zone (we all have to in these situations) and make a phone call, send a card, stop in and bring food.
-Offer A Helping Hand: When someone falls ill or passes away, often their family has a hard time taking care of themselves. Offering to walk their dog, babysit their children, bringing a meal or bringing in their mail and other small gestures are often what’s overlooked. If you’re good friends with someone who just lost a loved one, stopping by for a visit or getting them out of the house for a bit of distraction or a heart-to-heart talk might be the best course of action.
-Forgive One Another: Nobody is an expert at grieving or healing. An unexpected diagnosis or the loss of a family member can unearth an array of unanticipated feelings in both the people directly affected, and their circle of friends. Some people shy away from confronting their feelings, other simply shy away from reaching out because they don’t know how. Do you best, offer your help- and if it isn’t accepted or you see other people not offering to help, realize they are just dealing with the stress the best they can.
-Know There Isn’t A Set Timetable For Coping or Supporting: Whether or not you expressed your support initially after hearing of someone’s sad news- it is not too late to show it now. Additionally, if you were able to reach out promptly after an event happened, it’s probably a good idea to call, email or write to follow up with that person. Small gestures, even weeks after can mean the world to someone.
I understand, as both a person who has gone through it, and one who hasn’t reached out when I should have, that it’s difficult to navigate times of loss and illness. Two years ago, I lost my Gram (who I took care of and loved like a mother) and my dear friend/ mentor in the same weekend. In the wake of that loss, I became closer with some and alienated with others- I realize now, some folks just didn’t know how to reach out or didn’t know they should. During that time, small gestures made a world of difference to me, and every day was different- some days I needed to be alone, others, friends knew “being alone,” was a cop-out and dragged my butt out of the house or simply stayed in to visit, to which I am so grateful. Events like this leave all of us feeling lost- we don’t know how we “should” act, but the truth is, either as the bereaved or a friend of the bereaved, it’s not as important to stress over you “should” do, but simply that you do it.