Yesterday I posted some of the more relational things we are learning from crisis and grief. In case you need reminding, we are a mess of cluelessness – toddlers tripping and tumbling our way through this season. What I’m sharing is just stuff we’ve found to be helpful to us.

Today I wanted to share some of the hands-on stuff. In both posts it is super hard to limit the number (and I’d encourage you to add more in the comments), but here are three:

1. If you see something, do something. It’s hard when you don’t know what needs to be done, but asking “What can I do to help?” can just add stress to the person who is just trying to hang on. Sometimes you’re on overload and can’t think what is needed.

We had people who took initiative – threw in a load of laundry, mowed the lawn, and helped go through bills that had stacked up during David’s illness. A group of friends just went ahead and cleaned up the yard and put in the dock at my brother’s family cabin. When he died, others just said, “We’re picking up _______ at the airport and have places for them to stay.” It was huge not to have to worry about those details.


2. If you see something, ask first. This seems to contradict #5, but I think it’s important. As we walked through the months of David struggling with cancer, a lot of daily chores needed to be covered, but we also asked, “What are the life-giving things you don’t want us to take off your plate?”

For my sister-in-law, gardening is therapy, so while we thought that weeding might help, it was cathartic for her and something she wanted to continue doing. There were times that their dogs needed to be walked when she couldn’t, but when she was around, walking the dogs was a chance for her to get out of the house and breathe and replenish.

If you’re on the grieving side of this, you need to be willing to say what you need and want. We got into a good rhythm of me asking, “Do you need space or not?” “Do you want me to do this or not?” Susan made it so much easier because she’d be honest about what she needed.

3. Think Easy and Utilitarian. If you’re bringing a meal, bringing plastic plates and utensils are a great practical add. With people staying with my brother and sister-in-law round the clock for almost 2 weeks we were constantly washing dishes.

If you’re bringing food, (especially in our situation where there were a lot of people over an extended period of time), a dinner that can be frozen if plans change is helpful, and healthy food that you can grab and go (like bunches of grapes) is great. Also, a huge gift was when people thought of breakfast and dropped by bagels or muffins.

Most of you probably know about Meal Train (my aunt kept thinking we were saying  Mule Train 🙂 ) which is great for scheduling in people to bring meals. We were SO grateful for the grace and flexibility friends extended as our needs kept changing in this area.

This might sound bizarre, but a great gift that someone brought when we moved to home hospice was multiple boxes of kleenex. A practical gift that was used. A lot.

So there are three practical suggestions. What would you add?