While I was processing my own emotions, I was thinking of all the helpful things people have done to comfort me during two especially trying times that have befallen me this year. And so I thought I'd make a list to help you (and me) when someone else is grieving and we don't know what to say or do to be of comfort. (Funny how I don't know what to do at times. All I have to do is read this list. If these things comforted me, then I'm sure they would be ideas I could do for someone else!)
* food—You may have figured this out about me, but food is the way to my heart! I love food, and I loved the fact that people brought me food when I was down. Because who wants to decide what to do for dinner when your brain isn't functioning right? Some people took me out to eat. Some people brought meals. In the spring, my family sent us a fruit bouquet. (There's nothing like dark chocolate-covered ANYTHING to lift my spirits!) And Diet Coke—months ago Tabitha knew the way to make me smile by bringing me Diet Coke in my time of need, since I can't function without it! :) Back when we were at Christ's Church at Mason, Sally was always great at organizing food deliveries to friends! Food is so common, yet for me it helped so much!
* hugs—I'm a tactile person who feels much better when I've been given a hug. I feel that way every time I see my parents! And I especially remember when Susan gave me a hug at church when she first heard I had sad news. She didn't have words to say, but she didn't have to say anything; the hug was perfect. And I appreciated Melissa giving me a hug too. I know she's not a huge huggy person all the time herself, so it meant even more! :)
* the unexpected—Another thing Melissa did was to leave a book on my doorstep that she thought I'd like to borrow. She knew reading would be wonderful for me, and it was just what I needed. Lyndsey brought me flowers at Bible study. A freelancer I worked with but have never met face-to-face sent me flowers. Examples of unexpected tokens that let me know others thought of me.
* cards—How rare it is to receive cards in the mail anymore, right? Well Beth has an amazing card ministry. She has sent me cards during sad times and even everyday encouragements for no special occasion. They mean more than she will ever know. Audrey has done the same, never failing to make me smile with the cards (and photos!) she sends.
* visits—I know visiting is hard, especially in a hospital when someone is ill or going to someone's house, because you aren't sure what to say when you get there. And sometimes there isn't a lot to say. But it can mean a lot to have someone sit with you, even in silence. And grieving can happen when people fall ill themselves. Many people visited me when I was hospitalized several years ago. Carol and Mandi were great at that, coming to chat and make me feel normal again.
* specific offers—Where would I be without Sheryl and Ed watching Kaelyn for me? (That's on regular occasions, but in sad times too!) Sometimes people make that general offer, and I don't know whether to take them up on it, but Sheryl is always insistent and specific on times and dates. And the break in responsibility, just for a few hours, is what I need. Sometimes I offer to others in generalities, but I may have to change that now and ask, "When can I watch your kids for you?" or "When do you need a ride?" or "When can I take you out for coffee?" Not just a general offer, but find a specific time to help. Sometimes it's easier for people to accept and be helped when we are specific.
* keeping things normal—I appreciate the sentiment behind people trying to protect me. For instance, I had a friend not tell me someone was pregnant, thinking it might hurt my feelings after my miscarriage. That was very thoughtful. However, I don't know how it is for others, but for me, I don't want people to hold back information. It makes me feel left out. I can fully rejoice for others, even if I'm hurting. And I want to have the opportunity to share in everyday joys. Calling to invite people to join social events, even if they've just experienced a loss, can be helpful. They might need a distraction. Or they'll say no if the timing isn't right yet.
* prayers—I am the worst at praying for myself when something difficult happens to me. It's that fog again, clouding my thoughts. I know that in all my times of pain, I've been strengthened by others prayers when I didn't have words to pray myself. I didn't always know how to ask for prayer, even during prayer request time at Bible study. I appreciated when people prayed for me even when I didn't speak up. Or offers to pray WITH me, right at that moment. Obviously all prayers at any time are good! But the occasions when someone wants to talk to God with me, sitting right beside me, are so powerful. I remember my in-laws coming to the hospital years ago and bringing me the Lord's Supper and praying with me. Those are moments of God I will never forget.
I can't list all the ways and all the people who have encouraged me over the years. (I hate to begin naming names because I will leave someone out!) But these were specifics that came to mind, and I thought it might be a good list for me and anyone to consider when offering comfort to friends.