Ya’ll. Today was a day. I was feeling really good and “on it” this morning, until my 3 year old decided to test out a clamp on her tongue. I would go into detail, except that it would make some of you queasy. Let’s just say I called her doctor’s office and for the second time ever they said to me, “Do you just want to be on your way?” We always, always get seen the same day if we need it, but they will schedule us in at a certain time. She’s going to be fine, tongues have an amazing ability to heal themselves, but she was only allowed to eat cold, soft things today. Tomorrow we can start weaning her back onto solid foods. Needless to say, I’m wiped. So, I thought tonight would be a good time to share practical ways to help when someone you love (or even someone you hardly know) is hurting. Now, while my main focus is for baby loss, this goes for anyone facing anything hard.
It can be crazy overwhelming when someone we love goes through a difficult time. You usually want to help in some way or another, but sometimes a meal just doesn’t seem like “enough”. “Hey, I’m super sorry that you miscarried/your grandparent passed away/your husband is sick/fill in the blank, here’s a meal” can feel, at least to the giver, a bit underwhelming. Believe me, I’ve been there. Before we lost Judah, I would feel so helpless when a tragedy struck a friend or family member. There were times I didn’t know what to do or how to help, so I would say a heartfelt, “I’m so sorry, I’m praying for you!” and then do nothing else. I think the tendency when we want to help somebody is to have the feeling of “go big or go home.” Before Judah, I would get asked to make a meal, and if I couldn’t make a salad, and a side, and a main course, and dessert, and include plates, and napkins, and silverware, I felt like I maybe just couldn’t do it at that time. Going through a tragedy myself, I’ve learned so much. Most of all, I’ve learned that oftentimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. People don’t need for you to go big or go home. They need to know they’re not alone. They need to know they have a village surrounding them that can help pick up the slack, whatever that may look like.
Listed are just some ideas of really practical ways to help someone who is hurting:
- Make them a meal. The tendency is to make dinner. Dinner is AWESOME. I love dinner. I’m a huge fan of dinner. I will take dinner any day of the week. That being said, there are 2 other meals every day. Maybe consider offering to bring breakfast or lunch (because let’s be honest, lunch is the worst). I love when people ask what meal they can bring to me. One of my friends consistently brings us Panera bagels and cream cheese every time we need meals. Now that’s a true gift!
- A few notes on bringing a meal: Make it as disposable as possible. Gladware, freezer bags, aluminum pans, etc. Sometimes there’s really not another option (and that’s ok), but the last thing you want your friend to worry about is getting your dish back to you. Other options are to ask ahead of time if they have a large tupperware bowl or something you can transfer the food to when you get to their house, and then transfer it for them. I was always relieved when somebody asked me to transfer food instead of leaving a dish for me to give back. Also, be sure to check about allergies and likes/dislikes. Every family is different, and it always feels good when somebody goes the extra mile and asks about those things.
- Give gift cards. If making a meal isn’t your thing, that’s ok! Mail a gift card! After we lost the twins, we had gift cards coming in for months. It’s amazing what a huge blessing those things are! Plus, our kids thought it was super fancy any time we would order food in.
- Send pizza. Or Chinese. Or Jimmy Johns. If you can’t cook, or just don’t want to – have somebody else do it for you! There’s another family that we always exchange Wing Stop with. “You need a meal? What do you want from Wing Stop?” It’s become a fun (and delicious) tradition.
- Coffee. Bring them coffee. If that isn’t possible, send them a gift card for Starbucks or another local coffee shop. Did you know that you can e-mail somebody a gift card through the Starbucks app? It’s so simple and easy.
- Bring them dessert, or a favorite food (cheese fries, anyone?). I once had friends call me to say they were on their way to see me with cheesecake. It made enough of an imprint that I’m telling you about it now.
- If you don’t want to bring them dessert, have some sent to their house. When we lost the twins, the dance studio that the girls go to sent us specialty cookies with a card attached. The girls felt so special and loved (and I was floored by their thoughtfulness).
- Buy packs of disposable plates, bowls, plasticware, etc and drop it off. Nobody wants to do dishes anyway, but especially when going through a difficult time.
- Make them a freezer meal. I cannot express to you how essential freezer meals were for us during any difficult season. There is something so wonderful about being able to pull a home cooked meal out of the freezer to make on a day that is especially hard.
- Offer to go to the grocery store for them. My mother-in-law doesn’t like to cook, and she knew we had eaten out a lot after losing the twins. When she asked how she could help, I asked if she could buy us some basic groceries and things to eat for lunch. I didn’t even have the presence of mind to think of a list for her – and boy did she deliver! She got us all kinds of easy to make foods that we all loved. It was the best thing she could have done for us at that time. On a smaller scale, we also had some friends offer to pick up some milk for us before they came over. And that was a huge blessing too! I cannot stress enough that no act is too small.
- I think you get the gist with the food-related ideas. Basically, food is always a good idea, and it’s hard to go wrong. Moving on from food-related ideas:
- Bring then flowers. I love flowers. They always brighten my day!
- Bring or send a plant they can keep inside for a bit and then plant outside in remembrance of their loved one. We’ve had friends bring us hydrangeas, and potted plants. The school where my husband teaches once a week sent us a live advent Christmas tree. The girls got to use it during the Christmas season, and then we were able to plant it outside to remember the twins by.
- Send them to get their nails done- or offer to come over and paint them yourself!
- Show up with their favorite movie and sit with them on the couch and watch it together.
- Ask if they want to talk about it. If they do, let them talk as long as they want, and try not to interrupt. Let them lead the conversation, and follow appropriately. If they don’t want to talk, tell them it’s perfectly fine, and then move right along.
- Get them a massage, or if you actually know what you’re doing, offer to give them one. I have a friend and a cousin who are both excellent in this field. Their offers to bring out the oils and massage chairs were wonderful!
- Make a “relaxation” basket for them. Some family members gifted me with a basket that contained bath salts, bath bombs, chocolate, soft, warm, cozy socks, a candle…it was just what my body needed.
- Crafting can be really therapeutic. If your loved one is crafty, send them a crafting box filled with something they can make. My sister gave us a box filled with stuff to make Christmas crafts. It felt so good to put my mind on something like that.
- If you see something in a store and it makes you think of your loved one, grab it and give it to them when you see them next
- Pray for them. If they need it, and are ok with it, pray with them.
- If you hear a song or read a verse that you think will bring them comfort, pass it along.
- Offer to help clean their house.
- A hand written note -or even a well timed text- can change somebody’s day.
- Buy them some new, comfy clothes. My friend used to sell LuLaRoe, and when we lost the twins we had dropped off on our doorstep a gift that included a really comfy dress and a card signed by our Bible study group. I myself didn’t even think how much it would mean to be able to look cute and feel so comfy during such a difficult time.
- If the person you’re wanting to help has kids, think about them. This season is hard on them too, and it is an extra special blessing to watch them be loved on:
- After a friend lost a baby, our kids remembered how hard it was to lose the twins, and (all on their own) they went through their toys and chose ones that they loved to give to their friends. To this day, those kids treasure the special gifts their friends gave to them during a hard time.
- Offer to watch their kids for a bit so they can rest
- Bring over activities. It’s so refreshing for them to have something to do. Options include (but are not limited to), coloring books, puzzles, paint, books, blocks, Play-dough, or even a movie!
- A wrapped gift is always welcomed by little hands!
This list is long, but there are still so many more things you can do to help! Honestly, any offering is a sign that they are not alone and that they are well loved. Get creative with it, and above all, just do something. Pick something from the list, figure out something on your own, either is fine! Trust me, your efforts will speak volumes. And something little is always better than nothing.
A note about helping the hurting. It can seriously be uncomfortable to ask for (or even accept) help. Sometimes the best thing to do, is to just do it anyway. I’m not talking about barging into somebody’s home and stepping over boundaries, but doing things within reason. If they say no to a meal, send them a gift card. If they say no to your offer to help clean their house, next time you’re there-grab the broom and start sweeping, or buy them disposable dinnerware. Things like that. Read the room. 😅
One more important note before I part with you. Remember the days that are hard. Everybody wants to help in the midst of a hard time, but few remember when those hard days come again. It means more to me than I can say when somebody texts me during the month of May and says something like, “Missing Judah with you today.” One friend brought coffee from my favorite coffee place (Brickhouse, in case you’re wondering), along with some homemade banana bread and a note that said, “Happy Birthday Judah” on the day I delivered him. You guys. There are no words for such acts of kindness. You honestly don’t even have to remember exact dates. Weeks or months are perfectly acceptable. If you need to, mark it on the calendar with a reminder so you can remember. But also, it honestly doesn’t even need to be in the right time frame. Sometimes people will tell me, “I think of you and your sweet angel babies all the time.” And it makes me feel so good that they are remembered by more than just me. So if there’s a particular day you are remembering a lost one-let your friend know it. Send them a simple text, “Hey friend, thinking about your (fill in the blank) today. I love you” is all it takes. If it was somebody you had fond memories with, maybe add that in, “I always loved the stories they used to tell” or whatever it may be.
I hope this list helps you to help the hurting. Please comment below with any additional ideas you may have-or share a way somebody helped that was a blessing! I would love to hear from you! And remember: It’s often the little things that make the biggest impact!