When Austin died, I was with my brother and two sisters. We formed the main support team for Erica and Louis as they were in absolute shock over the death of their beloved son. Many other close family members were able to help them out.
We set up a command center in their home. We answered the phone and took messages. We accepted all the deliveries that came from all around the world.
I do customarily show up to the home of the griever with a clean, new notebook, pen, and bottled water. I do this because the phone starts ringing and you may, many times, need to write down a message as friends and family will call to convey their condolences. This can be extremely exhausting to grievers. The griever will not want to take every call. Be okay with whatever the griever wishes to do. Guests will, in most cases, start to arrive to the house to give their condolences in person and at least, you can offer them some water.
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Remember that Erica and Louis were caring for their other children and, for the most part, they could not be bothered with minor details of the day. It was not uncommon for us to have to make decisions. On my part, I had to decide on how much food to buy, or where to place the sympathy cards. However, we allowed them, without any input from us, to make all the major decisions.
Many calls and appointments needed to be made to set up the funeral and plan a celebration for honoring this little guy’s life. We were the support team for his aggrieved parents.
- Do stay near the grievers at the time of planning. Many grievers cannot even make simple decisions
- Do allow the grievers to make as many decisions as they wish to for their loved one. Please be okay with their decisions, even if you do not like it or disagree.
- Do manage the time and the appointments needed for the grieving family.
- Do arrange the driving arrangements for the family to get to all appointments, as the grievers will not be in their “present moment” and it is not uncommon for grievers to get into car accidents.
- Do field calls for the grievers (if they are okay with you doing this).
- Do keep a track of the gifts, the flowers, and the food that will just show up at the house. Use a notebook for this task. The griever may wish to send out “thank you” cards later.
- Do know that while the grieving family is likely to be making the bulk of the funeral or memorial service arrangements, there are some preparations that may fall into the category of “event planning,” something which you may be able to help with.
- Do express your emotions as much as you need to. It is not uncommon for the support team to feel obligated to “stay strong,” but that is not your job here. You may also be a griever. Allow yourself the time to grieve your loss.
About Sharon Brubaker
Grief is individual and unique for every person. A person’s relationship to each aspect of their life is also unique. As such, the feelings and thoughts each person will have about the relationship that has been altered by death, divorce, or other reasons requires customized attention using proven skills and understanding.