Even in “normal” times, addressing someone else’s loss can be awkward and difficult. Most of us like to avoid any talk around death or grief. Now, as we navigate a global pandemic, when due to COVID-19 restrictions we can’t just show up at someone’s house with a hug and a tray of lasagna or a bouquet of cheery flowers, we’re left without a clue what we should do.
There is the fear of the illness itself, and the anxiety-producing thought of talking about it with someone who has suffered the worst of it--the death of someone they loved. What should you do? We’re here with some thoughts about how to show support and kindness to those who’ve lost someone during this confusing time. Whether the person you want to reach out to is a close friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor, here is some solid advice.
Don’t be afraid to call. If you’ve heard that someone you know has suffered a loss, reach out and call them. Skip the emails and texts and dial their number. They may not answer, but leave a message anyway. Either way, let them know you’ll call back again, and leave your number so they can call you back. If you don’t connect with them, try again in a few days. This small gesture will mean more than you can ever know.
Mail a handwritten message. In these times where everyone is isolated and we can’t really live in the material world, the feeling of isolation can be debilitating, never more so than for someone experiencing grief. A handwritten letter or card will be even more special, as if delivered from another dimension. Take a look at this article on how to write a sympathy card if you need some advice.
Dispatch a care package. After a death, friends and family often bring casseroles, desserts, chocolates, wine -- comforts for those who are not in a mindset to cook or care for themselves. If you can’t be there in person, you can take advantage of many online resources for sending food, wine, and other creature comforts. Harry and David do great baskets. This gauzy throw blanket from Magnolia brings Spring cheer. A set of scented candles. A week’s worth of meal kits from a gourmet provider.
Send (or drop off) flowers. It’s already Spring, yet many of us feel as if Winter--and the epidemic--will keep us prisoner forever. Flowers are a luxury that many among us won’t allow ourselves right now, but they bring light and hope wherever they go. Now more than ever, flowers can help us honor and celebrate a beautiful life, beautifully. Include a personal note, and pay attention to color and meaning in your selection. You can clip flowers and greenery from your backyard for a crafty bouquet, or order flowers online if you’re father away. Check out our guide to sympathy flowers here. Note that it’s best to bring something already in a vase, as those who are grieving may not have the time or the energy to cut flowers and arrange them. Plants, too, may be a mistake as the person in grief may not be able to care for them, and if the plant doesn’t thrive, they may see it as a failure on their part. Remember, you can drop off gifts or flowers in a way that respects social distancing. Just leave them on a porch or doorstep and let the person know to look for them.
Be a double do-gooder. Support a local business and send love. Whether it’s ordering a fancy cake for delivery or purchasing Sunday bagels to drop off on the front porch, if you live close, now is a better time than any to shop local while sending sympathy. Most towns and villages have websites detailing which shops are open. If you’re not sure, ask friends in the know. Your local businesses will appreciate the patronage and you’ll be doing good all around.
Encourage self-care. Put together a bath basket filled with scented lotion, a loofah, and a soft towel. Or assemble a basket of books and a tin of good tea. A pair of comfy pajamas and some cozy socks. Design something that will comfort and soothe them when they need it most.
Remember the children. If the person who is suffering a loss has children, they are grieving, too. Sending a cuddly toy, a puzzle, or a game is a thoughtful way to help them through tough times.
Honor their loved one by helping others. One of the most powerful ways to celebrate someone is to help an organization, an institution, or even an individual that was important to them. You can ask friends and family if you’re not sure which causes were closest to their heart.
Whatever you decide to do to show your support for someone who is dealing with a loss during the Coronavirus crisis, just do something. Don’t be afraid and don’t feel awkward. Reach out. It doesn’t matter if the offering is large or small, fancy or humble. What’s important in this moment is connection and community. What’s important is to find ways to bridge the isolation that always comes with a death, but that is compounded now by the extreme circumstances of COVID-19.