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How to Show Up When Someone Dies

Kerry Davis, contributor here at be-scene, called me today to ask what she should do to support a family member who lost her Dad. Having recently lost my Dad, I had so much to say, I asked her to hold while I wrote it down for her and for you.

Clarification: I didn't lose my Dad. I know exactly where he is. He's in a Mason Jar on my nightstand. My Dad died and it's ok to say it.

When someone close to you suffers a loss of a loved one, here are some things to consider and ways to show up for a person that has lost their person. I am very passionate about this subject, so please pardon the language when it shows up.

First things first

Tell the person grieving the following things:

  • You can't feel it until you heal it.

  • Feel your feelings. Whatever those are. All of the feelings are ok.

  • People grieve differently. Don't judge the way their grief shows up or your own.

Things you might want to avoid saying:

They are in a better place. (Fuck you. They were just fine right here with me.)

They are no longer suffering. (Fuck you. I'm the one here suffering.)

They are with God now. (Fuck you. I'm stuck here without them and without God.)

It's going to be ok. (Fuck you. It feels like nothing is ever going to be ok)

Don't cry. It's going to be ok. (more on this below)


If the person is being cremated and you think there's a chance they would like any memorial gifts with the person's fingerprint, let them know to let the funeral home know as quickly as possible. They are happy to secure the finger prints for you.


Text the person grieving often, but rather than ask "How are you today?" (You know how they are, shitty. And a text isn't the place to start that big ass conversation) send them notes of encouragement or TRUTH that doesn't require effort or response on their end. Tell the person not to feel like they have to respond; you are just making sure they know you're there. If you don't know what to say, send a heart icon or angel icon.

Send cards. Send them soon after the loss, after everyone is gone and if you're so inclined, send them once a week for a year.

If you can't think of things to say, this Pinterest board is full of quotes that might be helpful. Share the whole damn board if you think it will help.


Show up

If you are close by - show up. Don't ask the person if they need you. Just show up. Show up with Kleenex.

If you are far away - suggesting showing up after everyone else stops calling, after everyone is gone.

When you show up, use the deceased person's name, tell stories about the person and for fuck's sake, do not tell the person grieving to stop crying. They need to cry and it's selfish to ask them to put their grief on hold because it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Physical Support Items

Send this book as soon as you find out:

Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young Link: http://a.co/iQEAuJe

Suggest that the person grieving read this every single morning before anything else. I'm talking - before your feet hit the floor.

Send these books after the funeral: Journeying Through Grief (4-Book Set) by Kenneth C. Haugk Link: http://a.co/e2NTQgF

These books make you feel like you aren't alone or crazy and are a wonderful, easily to digest resource.


Offer hotel points for extended family members.

Send food! https://www.sendameal.com/

Offer airline miles to get family to the funeral.

Offer your guest bedrooms to out of town guests.

Drop off or ship a case of nutritional drinks in case the family doesn't have an appetite.

Help find someone to watch the house during the visitation and the funeral.

Offer to help with the deceased person's Facebook page. It's a good idea to make someone your legacy contact. Here's how: https://www.facebook.com/help/1568013990080948

Things you can do at the house where everyone gathers:

1. Straighten up the house.

2. Offer to get someone to clean the house.

3. Strip and remake the person's bed with fresh sheets.

4. Do as many loads of laundry as you can.

5. Clean out the fridge. There's about to be a lot of food coming.

6. Fill a cooler with ice. Move the drinks from the fridge to the cooler. You're going to need the space.

7. Send someone to the store for toilet paper, paper towels, zip loc bags, temporary plastic storage containers for leftover, paper plates, plastic utensils, trash bags, a sharpie, legal pad and a pen.

8. When cakes or large casseroles show up, cut the cakes or casseroles into smaller portions ready for freezing.

9. Help write down food, flowers and gifts that come in.

10. Dump the trash.

11. When it's appropriate, help make sure that the attire for the funeral is clean or taken to the dry cleaners in time for the service.

Things you can do for the people who live in the house where everyone gathers:

1. Ask people to kindly leave so the family can get some rest when you see them starting to get tired.

2. Make sure they are eating, drinking and resting. More specifically, make them a plate. Refill their water glass. Tell them it's ok to go to bed even if there are still people in the house.

3. Offer to address thank you cards. Go get the stamps...

After the Service

Suggest that the funeral flowers be taken to nurses, nursing homes, elderly, etc. And keep showing up.

Memorial Gifts

Thumb print jewelry https://www.meadowhillco.com/

Framed message https://www.etsy.com/shop/ChristyAnnMartine?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Glass heart: http://www.glasseye.com/hearts-of-fire/

Find pictures of the deceased person and make copies for the family (digital is great, too)

Have a pillow made out of a favorite shirt or tie from the person.

I hope this helps you in some shape or form!