Any Ideas for "Being There" for a Grieving Friend Far Away?
April 05, 2008
My very good friend just lost her father from complications of Alzheimers. My heart is breaking for her. I'm at a loss as to how I can show my love and support from a distance. I can't be there to do the little things that can mean so much.......taking the kids for the afternoon, cleaning her house for the incoming relatives, or just sitting and talking over our favorite chips, salsa and margaritas. Sending flowers just doesn't seem to be the thing. Anyone have any creative ideas? Thanks.
Wow...... I got sooooo many great ideas of ways to support my grieving friend. I appreciate you all. I tried to thank everyone individually, but after several messages, the site only allowed me to "send a flower." I think I tried to send too many personal messages at once! But I do appreciate everyone who took time to respond.
I have written her a personal letter (something I haven't done in a long, long time!) and sent her a gift card to go out for margaritas with her mom who was in the caregiver role for so long. I also plan to keep in constant touch through emails and cards. I'm also seriously thinking of the "tree in his honor" idea and a personal "pampering" basket for her. When she's able to do it, we'll get together for a long weekend. Great ideas, everyone! Thanks again.
When we lost a family member, one of the nicest gifts was disposable plates, napkins, silverware etc. plus trash bags and ziploc style plastic bags. It made storing the food and clean up so much easier. Lots of people brought food, but you need the basic disposable stuff to speed feeding and clean up. We didn't want to spend time in the kitchen and this was a big help. If there is a store in the area that delivers, I guarantee this will help her. She'll know you really thought of her needs. I try to do this for friends in their time of need, and I always include a box of Kleenex as well. If family will be in town, extra toilet paper might come in handy. I know this isn't the "pretty" stuff like flowers, but "practical" is always appreciated.
When you're going thru a really bad time, talking doesn't always help.
What really helped for me was a different viewpoint
http://www.sylvia.org/home/index.cfm Her books are excellent & her cd's helped me through the worse time of my life.
I just lost my boyfriend to an agressively growing cancer that took him only 4 months after being diagnosed & the thing that REALLY helped me, was when his friends would call me at night when I was alone. It may seem like nothing, but, the phone calls REALLY helped alot. They would just be there for me & let me cry & cry & cry on the phone. Hope it helps your friend.
Seven weeks after I moved to Texas from Michigan my only sibling, my brother, took his own life. I was away from everyone I knew. I guess nobody (including my family members) knew what to say to me, so I didn't get any phone calls, emails or cards. Two and a half years later it still bothers me that nobody was there for me when I needed them the most.
Please call your friend. Regularly. And if she doesn't answer or return your calls for a while - keep trying. I'm sure she just wants someone to listen to her. You don't need to think of anything creative. Just be her friend. That's all she wants and needs.
My very best friend, who lives far away now, recently lost her Mother. Although I did not come up with this idea, I thought it was very creative. My best friend had quilts made out of some of her mother's clothes. She had 3 made, one for each of her children, with a small note on each quilt that read "wrapped in Grandma's love". If you could get your friend to send you maybe some of her Dad's favorite shirts, you could probably have something like this made for her, or if she has kids, for them too. I am sure you could find someone in your area to craft it for you, if you don't want to take on the task of making a quilt. I thought it was so creative and a wonderful idea. Hope that might be of interest to you.
How about sending her a set of meals? I did this for my parents once when my mom was sick, my sister did it for a friend far away who had a miscarriage. i forget the company we used, but I just did a Google search and while most results were dieting programs, there was also sendameal.com which specializes in special occassion deliveries - like a flowers alternative. You can choose one meal, 5, 7, a monthly program, whatever.
And you mentioned the favorite chips and margaritas - why not send those to her, with a movie you guys love, and maybe you can "watch" it together by phone (if you have unlimited minutes!) or if you set up Skype onthe compuetr you can watch topgether for free by an online "phone and/or video connection. You can be there without being there!
I have a friend who just lost both her parents in a matter of one month. I sent a nice card and donation to the charities they requested for her dad. When one month later her mom died, I felt like I just couldn't do the same. So I sat down one night and wrote my friend a long letter, a real letter not electronic, reliving memories of her parents, of our years of friendship and how she helped me when I lost my mom. After she got it, she said she cried all the way through it and can't yet talk about it with me. That was much more personal than a card. I am also considering purchasing a tree from the American Forests' Historic Tree Nursery for her to plant in her yard. Hope this helps!
Melissa, I am a Stephen Minister and have trained extensively in helping people deal with issues of grief. One of the first, most important and simple (yet so helpful) things is to just "listen". Call her up and ask her how her day is going and then just listen. Sometimes the hardest part is just listening. We feel like we have to offer words of encouragement but you don't... just listening to her feelings, her memories, her frustrations... anything that is on her mind. Just listen.
If you feel comfortable in saying a prayer with/for her at the end of the phone call... just be sure to offer those same concerns & joys to the Lord in your prayer (affirming that you were "listening" to your friend's needs).
It's pretty amazing how "loved" your friend will feel just by you "listening".
I have other suggestions if you like this one that I can send to you if you would like... email me at ____@____.com and I will be happy to give you some more suggestions.
I suggest you try to stay in contact with her as often as possible by mail (cards--not just one sympathy card, but multiple ones), email and phone. Just let her know you care. Of course, prayer works too!
When my husband and I lost our twins, the things that meant the most to me were donations to The March of Dimes, St. Jude's Hospital, Newborns in Need, etc. A few people even made donations to their alma maters in memory of the twins. It's nice because you know something good is coming from your loss, and the organizations that receive the donations send you a card and maybe a brochure.
Ditto on the phone calls just to listen. My living child's godmother called once and then never called, wrote, or sent me an e-mail again. I guess she didn't know what to say, but I am really wishing that we could substitute in another set of godparents now--not to be mean, but because their discomfort with my loss and grief has deprived my child of her godparents. Other people who were much less close to us reached out a lot more.
Is there any way you can fly out to see her for a quick weekend (or possibly for the funeral)? If that is not an option, maybe you can send her a care package of her favorite foods and magazines. Another idea is after her father's funeral, maybe she can come visit you? Hope this helps.
WOW! Everyone has such great ideas for you. I hope this helps you out. I love the care package ideas. One that I thought of was to donate to your local center in his honor. And go visit your friend or invite her to visit you. Distance sometimes is closer than you think.
if possible give her daily calls for a while, definetly pray for the peace of the holy spirit to comfort her, just let her know you are there, i lost my dad 4 years ago took me 2 yrs to get over it, and i still grieve some but the thing i would of loved would of been just someone to call me and let me know they were there to talk to or cry to whatever i needed those first weeks even to give me a laugh when all i wanted to do was cry. you would be suprised at how many times after the funeral no one is there, and there is no worse thing than having to grieve alone, encourage her to get out also. best of luck S.
You are a GREAT friend! When my mom died people actually pulled away from me - I got the "you should be recovering from her death" speach after only 2 months.... So, hanging in there and asking good questions is THE most important thing. Ask her how she is feeling, how people are treating her, what she will miss most about her dad, what she wants her kids to remember/know about her dad. Just let her talk. Also, gift cards to a restaurant (so she can go with another friend for chips, salsa, and margaritas), movie passes, money to pay a babysitter, gift card to get a massage. Also, a card once a week for the next year - that would be lovely. That way when other people think she should get over it - she knows that you know that the grieving process is a long one...
Again, you are a GREAT friend!
You are such a sweet friend sounds like you in tune w/ your friends needs =). One idea is to bring up her father in conversation... like any traits she might have from him, you wish you got to know him better, etc. She will want his memory to survive. One more idea, on special dates have something delivered to her such as the date that her father passed away or even something out of the blue. My fav's are the Cookie Bloom & Edible Creations bouquets. I hope this helps...=)
I'm sure it is tough not being there physically, but you can be there emotionally. Lots of people will show up immediately after the death but after time goes on everyone goes on with their life and the person grieving feels left alone. It is important to let her talk about her feelings. There will be days over the next year where she will be down and will need someone to be understanding. Grief doesn't go away overnight and a lot of the world expects everyone to just get on with it. You can send her cards, phone call and e-mails on a regular basis. Remember her on important days when her and her family will miss her dad the most i,e, holidays, birthdays, etc. One thing I do when someone loses a loved one is get a collage type frame and put in one of the slots for a picture a printed paper that says, "In Loving Memory with their loved ones name and birth & death dates" with stickers that fit the deceased ones life's likes. Then I give it to the loved one and they can use it to put in some of their favorite pictures of their loved ones. You're a good friend for thinking of her and even far away you can be there maybe even more than others in one way.
Phone calls, cards, letters. Telling her you will be there whenever she wants to talk. Maybe a phone card if money would be an issue. A gift card to a restaurant in her area.
If you know she is going to be home call her and tell her you are ordering delivery to her home like for pizza and put it on your credit card. Being there with a listening ear is most helpful. Call HER. Don't wait for her to call you and if she doesn't want to talk then she knows you are reaching out. Be a good friend.
Just keep in touch with her by phone calls, texting and send her cards of encouragement. If you are religious like me, you can pray with her and for her. Grieving takes its course. I have lost my father and 2 sisters and I have a good idea how she feels. If you can visit her or she can visit you for a weekend that would be nice.
Like everyone else I think calling would help so she knows someone is there to talk with; however, if you can afford it... YOu can research on the internet and find someone to come in and clean her house..or find a local restaurant/pizza place that will deliver dinner one night. ANy of these would help take some pressure off her.
One idea might be to send a "take care of yourself" care package. It could include things like bath gel and lotion, a new magazine or relaxing CD, some chocolates or other favorite snack, and a gift card or two for a favorite store, restaurant, or movie theater. An inspirational book on grief and loss might also be something to include (I liked "Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On" by Stormie Omartian.) Not only would the gift show how much you care, it also might just help her to recognize that she does need to set aside sometime for herself for some self-pampering.
Many, many wonderful ideas here. I too have a wonderful friend 1900 miles away. Please take comfort in the fact that she does know how much you care and want to be there for her. A simple phone call everyday will do wonders. I'm sorry for her loss.
How about gift certs. For any of those services? If you have any other contacts in the area, they may be able to direct you. She knows you love her and want to do more. Try to be her sunshine. Send her sunny happy cards that make her smile and laugh and not just on an anniversary date but for no reason. I love to mail articles from new papers or magazines or comics. Try to remind her of the good things. Maybe you have a great old photo she has forgotten all about. Just keep in touch with her!
If you knew her father pretty well, a letter stating what kind of man you knew him to be is wonderful. When I lost my father, a friend did this and it affirmed that my dad was loved and appreciated by my friends too. Made me feel that they too felt his loss.
Melissa, what a good friend you are. I love some of the posts about a tree. in his honor.
I think the best thing is to be there for her by phone. When my dad died people wanted to not talk about it ,but my husband's cousin kept calling and asking how I was doing. She could talk about it with me and not be afraid. That helped me so much. I always shyed away from talking to people after a loved one died, but I won't anymore. Another thing that really helped me was my husband bought me a nice journal. When I really missed my dad I would 'write " him a letter. It came in handy when I adopted my second child and he could not be there to meet her, or I would write him on his birthday or one of the kid's birthdays. I would cry afterwards but felt so much better. It really helped me very much. You could purchase a pretty journal and write a personal note in there for her and send it to her. You might also want to make a donation in her father's name. Also, as the others said, you could have some local places surprise her with food and services. I am sure you friend realizes what a good friend she has in you. B.
A great idea for you to do would be to make her a care box. Pick up a small to medium size box and place some small items in it that you know that she likes.i.e....photos, cd's, try visiting Mardel's or a Christian Book store they have little encouraging items.
I know it's hard because I live away from family and friends. Take the time to drop her a note for about two weeks (every other day), just so she knows that you are thinking of her. If you have any old pictures of you two, you could make a card that says "Wish we were this close (meaning in distance) right now."
Take the time, she will appreciate it and you will feel a little better.
Buy 2 weeks worth of inspirational cards or even make them. Send one everyday. You could even send them longer. It could get a little costly, but they make those $.99 cards now. Write messages in the cards that will lift your friend up. Tell her how strong she is and that you believe in her. Call her and just listen. Call and have food delivered for her and her family. This isn't much but I pray that it may bring some comfort for your friend.
Arrange with her husband to take care of the kids one evening so you can have a long distance "girls night" together. You could send her a movie/popcorn (whatever) and get it for yourself and watch it together at the same time while on the phone together or something.
You can do all of the things you want to do, if you are creative. You can have pizza delivered (or any other takeout delivered) for dinner one night by paying with a credit card. You can also hire someone to clean the house. It's more expensive than if you were there yourself, but it's possible. And, just try being there on the phone too..maybe that would help. As for the kids, do you have a mutual friend in the area? Maybe you could call the mutual friend and express how much it would mean if she could take the kids for a while...she may not have even thought about that as an option for helping.
You could send encouraging cards in the mail, electronic cards via e-mail, One a week. She will appreciate your encouraging words. Especially after everything has settled down and she is having to face the reality of the loss. Send her a book that has inspired you.
My best friend from 2nd grade lost her mom last year and I couldn't go to the funeral b/c I was pregnant and my due date was any day at that point. I was in tears and stressed on what I could do for her. I decided to send her a Willowtree that defined her mother and a beautiful card with a long letter talking about how sorry I was for not physically being there and also mentioned great things about her mom and memories I had of the two of them. I wanted to do more but I got a call from her and she loved what I did and was very understanding. Also for the first couple of years call her and let her know you are thinking of her during this time. I continue to pray for my friend and she knows it and she said that helps keep her strong.
Flowers do not seem that bad of an idea, it just seems polite. And I agree with everyone else about staying in contact. Call and be ready to listen. When my friend's mom died, he just wanted someone to hear him. I did not have to do any talking, he did all of it, I just listened. He later said he appreciated that more than people calling and talking his ear off. Also, send a card often if the calls aren't going well.
When my husband died, several of my really good friends sent letters to my children about their dad. Some sent several letters a few at a time. I enjoyed reading them. They will be able to hand down to their children stories that I would not have known. Also, a friend gave me a journal to write in. There was a precious note attached to help me get "into the writing mode".
Call her often but not at the same time for every call. Find the times that she might have visited her father and call then, or when she would least expect a call from you.
A series of notes, phone calls, and there are several companies that you can order meals from (Honeybaked ham ect.)or the gift card is a good one. Just let her know you are thinking of her. In the coming weeks, your cards or letters, or little kindnesses can help, when other people quit asking, you can still be there for her. Prayer is always good, even when it is not seen by the person, you are lifting them up.
Weekly cards are a nice thing. Weekly calls...especially a few weeks after. Most people call the first couple of weeks and then they stop. It's nice to have that continuous call. You can always call a restaurant near her and have something delivered. A plant to remember her father by. I have 2 plants from when we lost our twins and I love seeing them each day. Basically just be there for her and let her know you are thinking of her.
One thing I did was pay for a babysitter so my friend (who lost her mother to cancer in less than 3 mos) could have time with her husband. I paid the babysitter (sent her a check) and then sent a card to my friend explaining she had a paid babysitter at her disposal. I paid the babysitter enough that my friend was able to use her 3 times. She said it was so nice to use that after things had settled down.
I called to check on my friend a lot over the next several months (and still do). I send her cards often also. She shared with me one of the hardest things was that everyone gets back to their "normal" lives and that's when the greiving process is worse. She also said that every happy occasion (holidays, birthdays etc) had an element of sadness because her Mom was gone.
Another different idea my Mom did for us when my husband's mom passed away was she purchased a tree for us to plant in our yard in her honor. It was very meaningful and gives us such joy to watch this tree grow.
But if you want to do more, research cleaning services in her area, and send one over, already paid for. Or look into meals that can be ordered and delivered to her house. Or set up a babysitter.
Really, it sounds like you are a great friend, and sometimes just knowing that a dear friend is there for you is the best thing. Stay in touch, pray, and listen.
One other thought...a lot of people will be "there" early on, but as time passes, people move on. It's normal, I know. But keep in mind that weeks, months from now, she will still need support. Be that friend that still checks in down the road.
I am not sure if you or your friend are religious, but I bought a friend of mine a St. Joseph statue for her garden when she lost a baby. Then I followed up with a gift certificate to Home Depot so they could go buy flowers to put around it.
I also sent her a note telling her that "I am here for you whenever you need to talk" and didn't call her a bunch...let her call me. She said that was the nicest note she got.
Went through a very similar experience. Pick up a package of note cards at the dollar store. When you are thinking of her, write it and mail it. Even if you only say a couple of lines. It will be something she can save and re-read; and in this computer age, a handwritten note means alot. It's the WORDS that mean something, not the hallmark stamp on the back of the card. And the spontaneity of your actions - you thought of her, and did something, don't think of it as a little thing - will mean more than you realize. I've been on both sides of this fence. It is priceless.
When my father died a few years ago, he had Parkinson's. A distant friend made a donation in his name at the time of his death, and again a year later on the anniversary of his death. It meant alot to me that she remembered.
Also, I found that after two weeks, all of the phone calls, cards, and letters stopped. Be the friend that continues to call and write. Get her to talk about her feelings about the deceased. It will help her tremendously.
You sound like a very thoughtful person. She's lucky to have you as a friend.
Send her a card with a gift cert. for dinner for the family.
Just be there for her...
Make a donation in his name to the local chapter for the Alzheimer's Association. If she was involved in that. Or her family was. My Grandmother had Alzheimer's for a long long time... I feel for her too....
When someone loses a loved one, it seems like all the help and attention comes in the first month, and then you are left to grieve alone thereafter. Why not make a point of sending her a note or card twice a month for the remainder of the year. Ask her how she's coping. Remind her you have been praying for her. Talk about her father. If you knew him, share your memories of him. You can't imagine what these ongoing notes will do to encourage her as she tries to adjust to life without her father.
Hi Melissa, If cleaning or taking the children for awhile is what you WISH you could do for her.You can't be in two places at once,so is it possible to go on line and look up classified ads in her city, and see if you can find some agency or individual, looking for same kind of work, and ask them to go to your friend, and YOU Pay the Help. Ask the helper to finish up, with what ever she needs most, then before leaving, give her a big hug from you.
To me this would be more personal than flowers as well.
I used to have my own house cleaning business for upscale families, as well as some just needing a few hours by-monthly.
It was not uncommon for clients to ask for me to go for a day to a girlfriend, or help someone pack up to move, or shopping for a friend.I was paid, they were happy to send help, and the recipient was grateful. All happy! Just a suggestion.
My sympathy to you and your friend,
I just lost my 24 year old son in a traffic accident when his foreman fell asleep at the wheel and they crashed into a tree back in February. The grieving continues long past the first few weeks when everyone is around you. Continue to be there for her. Don't be afraid to talk about him because it is the memories that keep him alive in her heart. Send a card now and then, it is really nice to find one in the mail and know that others still think of him too. Don't know how crafty you are but another thing is to email or call and talk to others that knew him and get each one to write down a favorite memory of him and it would be great if they had a picture to go with the memory. Gather these all together and make a scrapbook for her. Also, you can get a picture and put it on material and make it into a pillow (there are kits for this or people online that you can send it in and have it made) These are both comforting things that she will cherish. I know that my son's two children have the pillow, they call it the "Daddy Pillow" and they sleep with it at night. Just being there for her really will mean alot. Don't be afraid to talk to her and let her cry. sometimes you just have to cry and you need someone to listen. Hope this has helped.
So sorry to hear about your friends loss. I lost my Dad this past July, very sudden and unexpected from a heart attack. I have very close friends far away as well. They did not know what to do for me either. They decided to come out after the funeral just to spend a few quality days with me...that was the best ever! I'm not sure if you are able to do so, but that meant the world to me. If not, there realy is nothing you can do to ease the pain. Loosing a parent is one of the most difficult things in life to go through, and it just takes time to heal. You just being there for her via phone is great. I definitely called them alot and they were always there for me. Good luck to you!
Happily Married for 11 years with a wonderful 6 year old Boy!
send a "care,love,good friend,etc package" of things you guys may have enjoyed together, or things you know she likes: chips, salsa, music, your baked goods, talk to her husband about babysitter they may use-- maybe you can pay for an evening out.. movie tickets--
along with note that you can't be there but take the time to rest, reflect, etc with those who are there with you...and know that you are loved from your friend
I moved to a new city this summer and left some wonderful friends. During Chirstmas time we had a some really bad things happen with my parents. My friend that live far from me called me almost every day just to see how I was doing. Sometimes it is just a phone call that helps!
I lost my dad a few years back. I would recommend calling her every couple of days over the next few weeks and months. Just having someone to talk with was very helpful to me. There was a lot of food and help the first week or so but then people get back into their lives and the local support tapers off. You could arrange for a cleaning service or meals to be delivered in the coming weeks so she could have some down time. Or for a gift certificate for a fun day with her kids (zoo, childrens museum, etc.) Hope this helps.