Friend Died, How Do We Help Her Husband and Kids?

Updated on November 12, 2013
V.M. asks from Seal Beach, CA
17 answers

We were heartbroken to learn that our friend died at the age of 38 from breast cancer. Now we want to do what we can to help her widower and two children, ages 5 and 6. What are some concrete things we can do that will help them?

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answers from Santa Barbara on

1. Baby sit
2. Playdates
3. drive to from preschool/gymnastics
4. ask him if he would like to be include on email list that regularly invites fiends to the park or other activity
5. Any one with older kids who has nice/pretty hand me downs for the kids
6. meals
7. try to have husband go on play date so this widower is also with other men.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

Everything that Sadie said, but plan on doing those things spread out over the long term. After a death like this there is usually a huge initial outflow of support, but after the first few months, its tapered off a lot as people focus again on their own lives.

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Detroit on

Do you live nearby? If so, you could offer to:

-sign the kids up, and be there to drive them, to and from a class (eg swimming lessons; Boy or Girl Scouts)
-bring meals and home baked treats for the freezer
-go to the farmer's market and drop off bags of fresh fruit and veggies
-invite them over for Thanksgiving dinner
-plan a Christmas event (go to a xmas parade, hot chocolate walk around the neighborhood one evening to look at xmas lights, picture with Santa, xmas lights train ride, ice skating etc) and invite them and a few other families (this is going to be a really hard events/traditions may be a welcome distraction)
-deliver (to the dad) a bag of stocking stuffers for each child, so that "job" is already taken care of, for the dad (need ideas? water bottles, flashlights, washable markers, small stuffed animals, Lego minifigure "surprise" pack, swimmingn googles, Christmas socks)
-plant spring bulbs in to cheer up their spring
-invite them over for dinner...they may decline at first, but keep asking
-take them out to a holiday movie
-offer to have them over to decorate xmas cookies, and of course, send them home with plenty

If you live far away:
-send gift cards to take out places near them (use Google maps for easy research)
-invite them for a visit, or to meet you somewhere for a joint holiday (getting away may make the holiday season easier on them...or not, be open to either response)
-send gift certificates to the movie theatre near them (don't under estimate the value of escapism)
-check your hard drive and send a family photo, or collection of photos, you have of them with their mom...a photo they don't already have
-send Christmas gifts for the kids
-send advent caledars for the kids (something, even small, for the kids to look forward to each day)

You're very thoughtful, for helping this family.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I am so sorry for your loss.
These past few years I have gone through this too many times.

One of the best things to help and to allow people to help the family, is to set up a page on

For one family we set up 3 months of grocery deliveries and meals 3 to 4 times a week.

Also child care, drop off an pick up at schools.

This site kept us informed on all information, messages from the husband. It was amazing. A few years later when this family suffered another major loss, we were able to contact people again.

It is a free site. Easy to use..

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


I'm sorry for your loss.

Cancer sucks. She was VERY young!! I'm truly sorry! May her memory be eternal!

What would **I** do for her family?

If I lived close, I would spear head meals for at least a month. I'm sure the whole family is reeling and the last thing they will be thinking of is food. When my mom was sick and after she died - their neighbors made sure that we didn't have to think of anything...nothing was frozen, it was all fresh.

I would ask him about child care and their schedule. While they are grieving the loss of their mother - routine and structure will also help them. Will he need help getting them to school? Will he need help picking them up from school?

You can set up a site like or - this will allow people to know what's going on.

Make a memory book for the of their mom to help keep her memory alive. If you have any movies of her? Make sure they are put on some form of media (dvd, thumb drive, etc.) so they can watch it.

I would help him plan for the future...Christmas, New Years...if you know the family well? Ask if you can do their Christmas dinner or stockings for the kids? Give him things to help him focus on the future. Not long term - but Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years...then let him know you and your husband are there for him....

play dates for the kids
helping with brownies (if they are involved)

Help him plan her memorial or celebration of life.

If you know a financial planner? Recommend him/her. IF you are close? Make sure the life insurance (if she had any) is notified (sit with the husband and make a list of life insurance policies, credit cards, bank accounts, 401K, etc).

This is why a financial planner would be a great asset right now - life insurance policies, trusts, bank accounts, credit cards....oh my - in California?! If she's being cremated - prepare for several weeks of waiting - permits need to be obtained in order to cremate her. Since he has two young children? However morbid this sounds? Make sure he has a will in place as well as people selected to take care of the children should something happen to him. No, it's not something you want to talk about RIGHT NOW - but really? This is life. SH*T happens.

Help him go through her things at a later date. My mom has been dead 7 weeks - my dad is getting ready to go through her side of the closet. He's not there yet, but he's close. HE brought it up to my sister...not the other way around...

Hope this helps. Again, I'm sorry for your loss!!

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Take your cues from them. Ask what they need. I am sure they are in shock and may not know what they need but ask. When there is a death people get back to their lives after a week or two and the family can feel as if everyone deserted them. He will need help keeping up with laundry and cleaning and shopping. He may not know how to shop for the kids, what sizes to buy etc.

This family will need lots of love and support for at least a year, maybe two.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

My Lord and my God, I am so sorry-just , if you are able, try to help with the daily events that must be addressed, like food prep, shopping, laundry, child care, cleaning.
I am sorry for your aching heart -have been there, on both sides-prayers are coming your way-forever.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I agree with Laurie. LHH has been a godsend to many families I know who are dealing with chronic illness or the death of a loved one. All of the things that Sadie suggested can be coordinated via LHH.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

A few thoughts...
offer to drive the kids to their activities or pick up from school
find out what the kids like to eat, and prepare some snack foods for them
make a meal
give them a gift card to a local restaurant that has both eat in and take out
invite them over for dinner
call every few days and just say hi, I'm thinking about you, can I help with anything
offer to take the kids for the afternoon
with the holidays right around the corner, offer to help with shopping and gift wrapping

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Bringing them meals, babysitting the kids and offering to drive them to their activities would be really helpful. Unless he is/was a stay at home dad, there is also a good chance that he doesn't know their daily routines and might have a hard time maintaining their schedules so they don't have too much additional change to cope with. So, help him figure out when they did homework, when they had snacks, what time they need to leave the house to get to school and activities, where the activities are located, etc.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on


I am so sorry for your loss. I had this same scenario a few years ago. It is heart wrenching. The father may not know where everything is. I know it sounds silly but one of the things my friend said was she did all the bill paying etc. I didn't know where she kept the stamps. It was so difficult.

Don't tell him call if you need anything. He won't. Call and let him know what you'd like to do and ask if it's ok.

With the holidays coming up it's going to be hard. Being there and just being a sounding board is important.

Like others have said, meals and groceries are a great service. In our church we provided meals for 6 months 3 times a week. It really helped him a lot. I think it's important to allow him time to process his feelings so keeping the kids on a regular basis would help. He has to be strong for the kids but in reality he is broken too.

Blessings to you as you minister to this family.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

The last thing you need to do is get in their "business" -- financial, insurance, etc. UNLESS he asks.
Be there.
Keep in touch. Regularly.
Gift cards. For groceries, restaurants, gas.
I've gone through this in the last year.
Friends took my friends kids school supply shopping, school clothes shopping, delivered meals, cleaned the house, taught her (older) boys how to do laundry, grocery shopped to name a few things.
I'm sorry about your friend.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New London on

I am so very sorry !

If the kids are in Kindergarten and first grade...Maybe a Mom from each class would like to start a meals from school families / help cleaning/ git cards for haircuts...

With Thanksgiving on the way, maybe you could invite them over or provide the meal.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I am so sorry for your loss! Talk to her family about setting up a meal train. Ask her husband if he needs the kids driven anywhere, or offer weekend/evening babysitting - have him drop the kids off at your house so he can run errands in peace or have some alone time. Call weekly to ask if he needs babysitting, meals, kids driven around, if he wants to come for dinner.
If you have other friends in common, have the friends put together memory books for the kids - stories/memories about their mom from your points of view. A group of my friends did that when one of the women's husband passed away.


answers from Houston on

If your hubby is willing, have him take the husband out for beers, golf, etc. While they are gone, take the kids in with yours. Do not tell your kids about why you are now so close with them, few people like pity.



answers from Los Angeles on

Bring diner over. Don't ask, he might say no, just do it (include instructions on how to cook and freeze if they don't need it that night). The last thing you want to think about it eating at this time, but they need to eat.

Help watch the kids. Take them somewhere fun. (You need to ask on this one, though, if you don't want the police called on you.). At first, though, he might just need his kids around to hug as much as he can. I lost an infant daughter and having my older kids around was the most comforting thing.

If you are really close, offer to help with chores around the house.



answers from Raleigh on

I'm so sorry for your loss. :(
You could take the kids out for an afternoon of fun, you know, something to distract them from the sorrow at home, if even just for a little while. It can be something like taking to McDonalds to play or to a park. Kids who lose a parent in this way have to grow up so quickly. It would be nice to remind them that they are still kids, even if it's for a few hours.
Dad is probably reeling, so this may also give him just a little bit of time for himself to decompress. He has to have time to grieve also and with two kids, it can be hard to find time.

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