Ideas to Help Mom SWH ADDED

Updated on December 14, 2018
M.6. asks from Woodbridge, NJ
22 answers

After a terrible and long (years) fight, my dad passed away early this morning. It is truly a blessing for him to not have to spend one more day like he was. This was a death that we really have been prepared for - in fact it's unbelievable that he made it as long as he did. My mom and I had many discussions about when he died, we purchased a burial plan, and his affairs have generally been in order for quite some time. Unfortunately, all the planning in the world don't stop the grief from rolling in and my mom is having a very difficult time with his passing.

My adult children all live quite a distance away, but want to come together to help make her feel better. They do understand that it is mostly time that will help her grief, but also would like to provide some other comfort. They have offered flowers (which seems pointless - especially since she will get plenty from others anyways), or to have food delivered (which unfortunately is difficult because we are so rural here, nothing delivers).

I'm trying to think of stuff for them to send to help - maybe Amazon Prime Pantry goodies? I don't know.

For those of you who have lost a spouse/significant other, or have had one tell you of something they received during those first few days after that was beneficial, I'd love to hear from you.


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So What Happened?

Thanks for all of the helpful advice!! The one thing that is a bit different about our situation is in a way, my mom has been a "widow" for the last 9 years - having to do everything my dad did since he was unable to. Also, she has been living alone (other than her furbaby) for the last 5 years since my dad was in 24 hr skilled care since then. She did go to the nursing home every single day for the last 5 years and feed him dinner and do his cares, sing to him, read to him (my dad couldn't move or speak the last 4 years of his life). I went with her many days, and also when she was sick from cancer I did it. So, I think a big thing for her will be filling that time slot that she was with dad every day. I've arranged it so I have been with her most of the last couple of days. My brother will be here tomorrow for a couple of days (and do some handy work around the house). My oldest daughter is flying in early next week to stay with her for 4 days and help her finish Christmas shopping/wrapping/etc. Then our Christmas is that weekend (we have it early), so she will be busy with us for that weekend. My husband is going to keep her busy when I go to Des Moines at the end of the month. In February, we have a trip planned for her as well that she has wanted to go on but couldn't because of her wanting to be with dad. I mostly worry about in a few months, when everyone kind of goes back to their lives AND I am moving to the other side of the state permanently, but she is still figuring out what to do with her time . . . I guess cross that bridge when I come to it.

Thanks again!

More Answers



answers from Denver on

I'm sorry for your family's loss. It's so nice that your children want to help your mom at this time.

I read a beautifully written piece recently, about a family - with several young children - that experienced a death. There were offers of food, flowers were delivered, cards sent, lots of "call me if you need anything" etc. But one man came to the door with a shoe shining kit and simply said that he was there to shine the children's shoes for the funeral. And he did. He explained that during his own time of loss, with young children, no one had clean shoes to wear. He silently polished the shoes and lined them up and left just as quietly.

I'm sure it's not a true story, just one of those internet "feel-good" things, but the point made was that in a time of loss and grief, people don't really NEED flowers, as beautiful as they are.

What they need is the sidewalk and steps shoveled, bathrooms cleaned and stocked with extra toilet paper and guest towels, the dog walked, dishes loaded into the dishwasher, mail picked up, notifications made, airport runs to pick up out-of-town guests, beds made, clothes brought (and picked up) to the cleaners for the wake and services; all the things that must be done but are just too hard to do through the tears. If there will be lots of cars for a wake, have someone talk to neighbors and inform them that there will be extra cars on a particular evening.

There will be grieving, and crying, and there will be times when it seems too much to bear, but maybe the greatest gift is to allow the person who is grieving to not have to think about the mundane duties of life.

So maybe, if your mom will have people visiting or calling at her home, you might hire a trusted friend to quietly just make things ready. Clean bathrooms, straighten up the kitchen, vacuum floors, wash dishes, stock paper goods (tissues, toilet paper, etc). Make sure it's someone who understands that their job is not to sit with your mom but to make the house ready for others to sit with her. Is there anyone who could bring over a couple of quick meals, even if it's not a delivery service? Find people who drive who are willing to do errands and go to the airport when family is coming in, and have them ready to go at a moment's notice.

And most important, find someone to house-sit during any calling hours, during the wake, and during the funeral. Some particularly hideous persons use those hours to break into homes and steal things. Find a trusted person to stay at the house and make it look well-lit and well-lived in and well-guarded during all the times your mother will be at the funeral home or church.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I am so sorry you lost your dad. Even if you have gone through a long Illness with a loved one, you still go through grief and heartbreak.

I lost my husband suddenly due to a heart attack in 2015. Daughter and I were in shock and still are many times. It’s just unbelievable that a supposedly healthy man dropped dead like that.

I received a book from a neighbor called “I wasn’t ready to say Goodbye”. I loved that book and a few other books which talked about being widowed, etc, things to expect, etc.

I also started journaling because I felt like no one wanted to listen to me. I journal daily to this day and at this point, I can look back on older journals and see my growth.

People forget real fast and get back to their routines which is very normal. But for us.., adjusting to the new normal is hard. I’m still adjusting.

My daughter was living in her own condo so I’m in my big house with my dogs. At the time, we had 1 dog because our other dog got sick suddenly and died 2 months before hubby died. About 6 months later, I rescued a pup, now a large lab/shar-Pei because I felt more secure with a big dog. She is a gift from God and I love her so much!

I received flowers, all died. I still have some plants. For me, when the funeral was over, everyone was gone and I just sat here in shock. I didn’t eat.

I guess one thing that would have been nice was someone listening to me, letting me cry, etc. we did join a grief group which helped because you meet people who have been there and know what you’re going through.

I hope you have a good financial planner and legal counsel. One thing my husband was good at was planning. My financial planner and legal counsel got me through the first months of doing everything I needed to do and continue to run our company. He made sure I’d have no worries on that front which I do appreciate. I was married 26 years to a very selfless man who lived to provide and love us. This NYE would be our 30th anniversary.

Feel free to PM me if you need to. Again I’m sorry for your loss and I apologize for this novel I just wrote.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I'm so sorry for your loss. I know it's been a long time coming, but it's still so hard to go through.

I think your mom - and you - will have support in the initial days and weeks. If there is a service, some support from clergy or visiting/calling/writing friends, that helps. When my dad died, my mom had a much harder time weeks and months down the road. Getting back to a routine after years of coordinating schedules around his care and capabilities was a huge adjustment - with guilt about no longer doing anything for him. And in your case, since your life is so wrapped around doing things for others, I think it's worth allowing for the possibility that this may happen to you. Maybe you will substitute taking care of her for taking care of him to help you through it, but it doesn't always work.

My advice to you is to allow your mother the time to adjust to being a widow. The hardest time can be when everyone shows up in a flurry to help (when nothing can be done), and then they leave and go back to their lives. The widow is then doubly alone.

So resist the urge to do too much right now. Don't ask her what she needs - she doesn't know. When it comes time to clean out his clothing (which was months down the road for my mom - and so hard), she may need more than she does now. Don't push her to do too much - no cleaning, no traveling, no finding a book group or a knitting club. Just let her be. I'd assign each kid either a month to be in touch and get to know Grandma in this new role, or have them develop a rotation schedule of calling or writing her. (And do let them do it, Mom - you coordinate too much as it is. And they are old enough to do this.) I'd encourage writing, even though it may not be their habit - it means a lot to that generation, it lets the person enjoy the letter more than once, and it doesn't require her to talk when she doesn't want to. If this plan lasted a year, that would help her more than delivered meals. Have them write about a memory of Grandpa, a funny story, something they'll always remember that involves HER and not just Grandpa...those are all important for her to see herself as having a connection with them as a single woman and not just the remnant of a couple that is no longer.

My mom sang in a choir, started traveling with Elder Hostel, and became a Red Cross volunteer. But she did it in her own time and not because we kept after her to be sure she was doing something and making decisions. She made her own meals just fine. I think sometimes people send flowers and meals because it's what they know how to do - not because the widow really needs it.

Take time to think it through - maybe the kids will decide to do something like create a park bench with his name on it at a local nature area or the public library - we have a few of those in our town. But it means more later on rather than as something rushed through.

And I think you will do well to deal with your own grief and your own down time too. Let your adult children start to be adults without being steered by you. Let them have an adult relationship with your mother without you in the middle, and see what they come up with.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Your mom needs her children to be with her. I know you will all be there for the services and so will a lot of other people. And for a few weeks or months friends and neighbors will call or visit but soon that will stop, people will get on with their lives and expect her to also. It doesn't work that way. There is no time limit on grief, it's not something you get through or get over. This is your new reality. It gets better with time but it never goes away.
Your mom is going to need her children to visit as often as you can and to call her once or twice a week for a long time.

It's been 32 years for me and I don't think about every day but it's always there. His birthday and the anniversary of is death day are the most difficult.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I'm so sorry you lost your dad. Hugs to you.

What about a nice card for your mom, that she can display from each grandchild and they could include a nice memory they have of your dad? that would be nice. They could even put in a nice a picture they have taken with him (do you have any that you could email that they could print off and just stick in?).

Or ... they could email you the nice notes and you could put it in a nice letter and add the pictures, so she has something to read to feel the family is there with her. Something she could display when people come to visit.

Phone calls to say they love her if possible. You'll all be together soon I think? Thinking of you.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

So sorry you lost your Dad. Walking through this is hard no matter how long you’ve known it’s coming.

My husband’s mom passed unexpectedly. My mom wanted to give my husband a tree to plant in her honor. It really meant a lot to him since his mom could grow anything. We’ve moved from that house, but occasionally when we’re in the Dallas area, we still go by and check on her tree. ❤️

I think the others have given great thoughts. I especially agree with Diane. I think having the grandkids contact her by mail is a great idea. These next few days will be a blur to all of you. Take time to care for yourselves.

My husband’s brother died of a heart attack suddenly. I purchased a book for people to write their favorite memory about John. So every visitor that came by the house had the opportunity to write. After everything was over and people began to leave, his partner began to read all of the writings. She still cherishes that book and finds comfort from it 5 years later.

Please take good care of yourself too. Your mom will need you a lot in the months to come. Hugs!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

So sorry about your dad. It sounds like he must have suffered for quite a while. He sounds like a fighter. As far as your kids, that is so sweet of them to want to help grandma. Maybe they could coordinate with each other and each take a month and visit her for a day or even a weekend in that month. They could each do whatever comes naturally to them and their personal relationship with her. Some could help her clean or pack up his things. Some could help with yard stuff or handy-man type things. Have her make a honey do list and just chip away at it. Some could shop and cook with her. Some could take her to a movie or just snuggle in and watch old movies at home with snacks. Some could help her decorate or un-decorate after holidays. These monthly visits would give her something to look forward to .

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't have any words of advice, but I want to let you know that I'm so sorry to hear that your dad has died. Loss is always hard, expected or not. You have my sympathies.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Please accept my deepest sympathy.

There are many great ideas. I also think writing letters over a period of time is a wonderful gift.

I hope you also consider what you need and are kind and gentle with yourself in the days ahead.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

So sorry for your loss.

I recommend getting your mom a book on losing a spouse/being a widow. Grief can be an isolating experience. Reading other’s stories of the same kind of loss, made me feel much less alone when my son died.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

When my moms significant other died suddenly from a heart attack she went through a profound grief.
It's been 17 years now and while the crying jags have stopped she will never really get over it.
We've just had to accept that this is her reality now - she resents any help to come to terms with it.
For your mom - in spite of preparations and being ready as can be - the reality of it is fresh and new for her.
It's going to take a lot of time.
While food and other stuff will come - see about things that will help her with her home situation.
My mom has trouble changing the storm windows, taking care of her yard, mr fix it jobs around the house and so on.
Help her with the little typical stuff that needs doing.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I’m sorry. I understand what you are saying about the blessing part.

When my in-laws passed away, we had family and caregivers together and talked about them, reminisced, cried, laughed, sang some songs, etc. We did this at their home, before the funeral. It was a safe place to be with the family and those who were with them til the end.

I recommend this.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Sending you and your family prayers for strength and solace. No matter how much of a release from suffering a death may be, the reality of loss is always hard. My father was ready to go when he died at 93, however it still hurt/hurts sometimes. My deepest wish is that you, your kids, your mother, and your siblings/other relatives can gain comfort from each other now and going forward.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

First off - I'm very sorry for your loss. I do understand the relief of death - finally. My mom died of pancreatic cancer - she died 6 days after diagnosis. My Godfather died of pancreatic cancer - he lasted 18 months and the last 6 months were horrible.

When my dad lost my mom 5 years ago - they had been married 56 years (just shy of it). He didn't know what to do. They had been living in the same neighborhood for 20 years. They were very much loved in the neighborhood.

I live on the other side of the country. My brother and sister live hours from my dad. My niece and nephews are just hours away as well (less than 4). What helped the most - more than anything sent? Was CALLS - my boys called my dad every other day - he and I spoke daily (that has been our thing for decades). Have your children CALL HER. Don't send her stuff that she's just going to have to throw away or figure out what to do with - call her. MAKE TIME FOR HER!! Even if it's just a phone call. That will do more for her than anything else.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

So very sorry to hear about your dad. We had a similar experience as B from Chesapeake. After 50+ years, dad's sudden death totally derailed mom. Something that helped was when people sent books on grieving the loss of a spouse. One thing people can do for her, if she lets them, is to handle small tasks around the house and in the yard. Have a family member or trusted friend go in once a month or more to clean up the kitchen, bathrooms, do a quick vacuum job, clean the fridge, check expiration dates of food, etc. Mom's life as she has known it for so long has come to a complete halt. She may not remember to check gutters or hoses or broken things. Have someone check on that without her needing to ask, and try to continue for several years if you can. All the best as you grieve for your dad. It's so hard. Remember to take time for yourself.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Love Diane’s answer. Also consider giving her a subscription to something which gets her out of the house, local theater, bowling alley, book club whatever. A change of scene and being among people can be a nice change from being alone with your grief.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

So sorry for your families loss. Sounds like you'll be doing of great job of being with her now and thru the holidays. You're right, it will be hard when everyone goes back to their lives. I think everyone needs to make a special point to call her regularly and even right letters to her, or emails, FaceTime etc. If everyone does it just a little bit it will really add up to some nice family contact time for her. Does she have any hobbies? or things she used to enjoy doing before he got sick??? Maybe a gift towards that nature? If she used to like to sew, knit, read, garden or draw, paint? Anything like that perhaps she hasn't had time for? Or maybe a gift towards a new hobby that she's always wanted to try? This may sound odd, but I also like the idea of giving her a bird feeder (or two or three!) if she's into nature at all and maybe a bird identification book for local birds. It can bring life into her yard. :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

When we lost my dad we just all spent time with my mom and were there for her. My brother came from out of state. Once he left I stayed with her for a little while. I think her just not being alone helped. We also had lots of people from the church do stuff for her. Some of the men got together and fixed up stuff that dad was unable to fix after he got too sick. On what would have been his next birthday all of us kids got together and planted a tree in mom's front yard. My mom liked the plants that were sent. She was able to plant them in her yard.
I am so very sorry for your loss!!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I am so sorry for your loss of your father. My only small contribution of a comment is to say: take care of yourself. Drink fluids, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, get a flu shot if you do that, etc etc. You need to be the best that you can be, through your own grief, for your mother.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My MIL loved that her children came to visit, and she loved the cards of love from the grandkids.

I'm very sorry for you loss but happy for it being a blessing.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I am so sorry for your loss. I love Heidi's idea of planting a tree. The tree will be a place that your mother can go to when she needs to talk to or feel connected with your dad. I think the best thing that your kids can do is call her often. She's probably at a point in life where she doesn't need stuff so phone calls and cards will be exciting for her. My grandmother used to tell me that old people like her are excited when young people think of them. Not saying your mom is old but knowing her grandchildren care will do wonders for her.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

When my father in law died unexpectedly a few years ago? the best thing that helped my mother in law was time.

Flowers died and reminded her of her loss.
Plants were nice, but again, reminded her of her loss.
Having her sons come over and spend time with her helped.
Having them call her if they couldn't come over was wonderful for her. It showed they cared and were concerned. They actually started a weekly schedule of calls, all 4 of her boys call her during the week. She feels the love.

1 mom found this helpful
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