Guest post by Colleen Arnold, MD

I am a family doctor, a hospice volunteer physician, and a faithful Christian, but even armed with all of this, there was nothing I could do to save my 57-year-old husband from cancer. He died in 2015, less than six months after his diagnosis. Although friends and neighbors did so many things to help, one friend in particular stands out because of her very generous and practical way of caring.

On the day after my husband died (the day before all the out of towners were due to arrive for his funeral), my dear friend Carol showed up at my door. Tears streamed down her face as she confessed she had no idea what to say and could only think of one thing to do to help. Carol knew my house would be full of guests for the entire week; I watched as she carried in several large boxes of paper products. She brought plates and napkins for the sure-to-arrive casseroles and cakes. There were paper cups to serve the many cups of tea and coffee that would be shared around my kitchen table. She brought paper towels and toilet paper to supply a huge crowd, and even remembered to bring Kleenex for wiping tears.

As the week went on and mourners came and went, Carol’s supplies were all gradually used. I didn’t have to worry about dirty dishes or running out of hand towels in the bathroom. And to top it all off, Carol took the trash away, too.

Carol’s thoughtful and practical gift taught me a good lesson: don’t ask people what they need during troubled times because chances are, they don’t even know. Don’t say, “Call me if you need anything,” because they probably won’t call. It would never have occurred to me to ask someone to bring paper products, but it was a huge help. My advice is to look at each situation and ask God for suggestions. From walking the dog to doing laundry, there is always something practical that needs to be done. Just show up and do it!



About the author: Colleen Arnold is a family physician, a widow, and a mother of three young adult daughters. She enjoys hanging out with family, writing, reading, and walking. You can read her blog at ColleenArnold.org.

2 thoughts on “When Someone Is Grieving, Just Show Up and Help”

  1. So true. Friends can be so helpful at these difficult times with just the little things that mean so much. Actions speak louder than words so often.

  2. Thank you for sharing this practical information for those who have lost a loved one. I shall certainly pass this on.
    Since I knew Neil since he was a baby, it is sad for me to think he is not here anymore. My thughts and prayers are for you and Quint since he is the only one left of his brothers. I hope he sees Sandy Ballard–Lois*s son. Sandy*s sister-Anne -is in New York–the last I heard-and she is a rabbi as her husband is jewish.

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