Practical Ways to Help a Grieving Person

If you offer to help, you need to offer useful ways you can assist

Man doing laundry
It's not glamorous, but doing someone's laundry is just one practical way you can help the bereaved. Photo © Andrew Olney/Photodisc/Getty Images

Among the many things you should avoid saying to a grieving person is the trite phrase, "Let me know if I can help." Uttering this hollow comment merely adds another burden to someone already exhausted by grief and the many decisions he or she has made when planning a funeral or memorial service in the hours, days and weeks following a death.

If you truly want to help a grieving family member or friend, then the better approach is to let the bereaved individual know that you want to help and then offer a specific suggestion or two.

In no particular order below, you will find more than 60 practical ways to help a grieving family member or friend following the death of a loved one. (In most cases, you should not undertake any of these suggestions without first running it past a grieving member of the immediate family or a close friend of the deceased.)

• Cut the grass

• Wash his or her car

• Fill-up his or her car's gas tank

• Shovel snow

• Water the lawn

• Feed the family pet(s)

• Take the family pet(s) for a walk

• Clean out their refrigerator

• Buy groceries

• Do the laundry

• Drop-off/pick-up their dry cleaning

• Take-in their mail, packages and/or newspapers

• Pick-up a prescription/run another specific errand

• Babysit his or her child(ren)

• Drop-off/pick-up their child(ren) at school or other events

• Offer to cook dinner

• Take him or her out to dinner

• Deliver a complete meal

• Offer to house-sit while he or she is away, for security reasons

• Water the plants

• Clean their home

• Hire someone to clean their home

• Help fill out insurance forms

• Mail bills

• Pay bills

• Transport leftover funeral flowers

• Drive him or her to/from the funeral, interment site or anywhere needed

• Clean out the deceased's refrigerator

• Clean the deceased's home

• Hire someone to clean the deceased's home

• Offer to house-sit the deceased's home, for security reasons

• Water the deceased's plants

• Cut the deceased's lawn

• Wash/clean the deceased's car for later donation/resale

• Shovel the deceased's snow

• Water the deceased's lawn

• Feed the deceased's family pet(s)

• Take the deceased's pet(s) for a walk

• Do the deceased's laundry (if it will be donated)

• Pick-up the deceased's dry cleaning

• Take-in the deceased's mail, packages and/or newspapers

• Babysit the deceased's child(ren)

• Drop-off/pick-up the deceased's child(ren) at school or other events

• Secure the deceased's home (lock doors/windows, etc.)

• Check the deceased's voicemail for important messages

• Notify the deceased's landlord of the death

• Notify local authorities that the bereaved's home will be vacant off and on

• Notify local authorities that the deceased's home will be vacant

• Notify the deceased's employer of the death, as directed by the next-of-kin

• Move the deceased's vehicle if parked in a public space

• Purchase supplies for a funeral memory board

• Notify people about the death, as directed by the next-of-kin

• Forward the deceased's mail, as directed by the next-of-kin

• Cancel/transform the deceased's social-media accounts, as directed by the next-of-kin

• Cancel/forward the deceased's email account(s), as directed by the next-of-kin

• Cancel the deceased's cell-phone contract and/or recycle the device, as directed by the next-of-kin

• Locate the deceased's important documents, e.g., a will, insurance policies, military discharge, etc.

• Drive/accompany the bereaved to a grief-support group

• Suggest simple forms of exercise to the bereaved, such as a walk or riding a bike

• Ensure the bereaved eats regularly and/or properly

• Monitor the bereaved for signs of alcohol and/or drug abuse

• Monitor the bereaved for signs of exhaustion, sleep loss and/or depression

• Purchase a blank journal and encourage the bereaved to record his or her feelings

• Suggest/plan helpful temporary "distractions" as needed, such as a movie, game night, dinner, etc.

• Encourage the bereaved to share a favorite memory about the deceased

• Provide quiet, non-judgmental companionship

• Use the deceased's name during conversations

• Phone/email the bereaved often, and for no reason

• Listen, watch and love

Additional Helpful Articles:
Checklist: What to do Immediately After a Loved One Dies
Checklist: What to do in the Following Weeks After a Loved One Dies
How to Create a Facebook Legacy Contact
10 Practical Tasks for Those Facing Terminal Illness

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