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Advice from Ms. Price
Dear Ms. Price,
My husband is in hospice and is nearing the end of his life. He is 79 years old and we have been blessed with a wonderful marriage and a life together. This has been an indescribable time, and I admit that I am feeling so many things from shock, despair and confusion.
I am surrounded by my loving friends who want to help, but there are some friends who don’t seem to know what to say or what to do. Some people avoid me, which I understand. I’d like to share some words of wisdom as to how to reach out to a friend when they’re going through a death of a loved one:
- Do reach out. Yes, you might not know what to say, but just being there provides so much comfort. Even if you don’t know the person very well, every kindness means more than you’ll ever know. I had someone I barely know send me a sweet text, and I can’t tell you how that brightened my day.
- Read the room. Once you’ve said something, read the reaction. I admit that it’s all up and down. One moment I am social and the next I can barely sit up. If your loved one doesn’t respond, give a hug and come back later.
- Express love and support in the way you feel comfortable. From baking cookies, to sending a card, holding my hand, crying with me or lending a shoulder, it all means so much.
- Listen. Ask open-ended questions and lend a listening ear.
- Acknowledge how bad it is. Death is awful and it sucks. All the words in the world cannot change this. However, your presence can make it better.
- Just do it. So many people will say, “Let me know if you need anything.” I might nod, but I’m not going to do that. If you drop off a casserole or a card or just send a message, it’s always appreciated. My best friend stops by every other day and cleans another room for me. She doesn’t ask. She just does it and I couldn’t be more grateful.
- Say the “D” word. I’m not sure if this is just me, but call it what it is; “death.” It’s not “passing away” or being “lost.” It’s death and it sucks.
- Thank you. I might not say it often enough, but I am so grateful for every act of generosity, no matter how small. I appreciate you.
Anxiety about doing and saying the right thing is really normal, but your desire in wanting to help is positive and appreciated more than you know. Be yourself and either ask directly or try to figure out what they need. There’s probably little to worry about if your intentions are good. And when you go through your own challenging times, I’ll be there for you, too.
–Grieving in Gulfport
Dear Grieving in Gulfport,
Thank you for your beautiful words. I couldn’t have said it better myself. On behalf of our readers, we send loving thoughts and prayers to you and your husband.