My friend Carole died on Good Friday during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of social distancing requirements, I was not allowed to visit with her husband in person. We could not hug and share stories about Carole, which is what I would normally do for someone. So, I turned to “distance caregiving” for Carole’s grieving husband.
You’ve probably read the sad stories of how this novel coronavirus has disrupted mourning rituals everywhere. As this article points out, “Grieving, already a tumultuous and lonely affair, has become even more solitary.”
Check In, and Not Just in the Beginning
Thankfully, COVID-19 doesn’t prohibit us from sending condolence notes. But don’t send just that one condolence card. As the weeks (and months) go on, grieving people need your attention. Dr. M. Katherine Shear, a psychiatrist, clinical researcher and director of Center for Complicated Grief, offers this advice: the most important thing is to make sure the grieving family can still feel your presence, even if you can’t physically be there to comfort them. So, check in, and do so consistently over an extended period of time.
Following are some suggestions on how to check in with your grieving friend.
Reach Out to Show You Care
- Send a group email: One person starts it by writing or telling (1) a fun memory of the deceased, or (2) an admirable characteristic of the deceased, (or) what they will miss. Then the person sends his/her email to the rest of the group. Each also shares and “Reply All.”
- Set-up a contact chain (via phone, text or email) so that the grieving person is contacted on a regular basis
- Send an ecard (I like Jacquie Lawson ecards)
- Put signs in their yard that say: “We love you!” or whatever message you choose
- Write an “I Remember Note” and include one of your favorite photos of the deceased
Model Caregiving – Get Kids Involved
- Ask children to draw pictures for the grieving person: Maybe give them a title like: “My favorite memory of _____________” or “______________was important to me because . . . .”
- Encourage children to write a poem or tell a story about the deceased person; share these treasures with those who are grieving
- Enlist the kids to write encouraging chalk messages and artwork on the person’s driveway or sidewalk
Send Them a Caring Gift
- Make an electronic collage of pictures
- Send a lovely gift from online retailer laurelbox, which specializes in gifts for the grieving
- Send a care package filled with items the bereaved would enjoy; create your own or buy a pre-made one; get ideas from Amazon’s gift basket section
- Send them a decorative container of Hershey’s “Hugs,” with an appropriate note
- Send a garden memory stone
Feed Them, the Social Distancing Way
- Coordinate a meal drop-off plan with neighbors so your friend will get a homemade meal once a week
- Give gift certificates to restaurants that deliver food
- Make a porch delivery: every few weeks, drop off a container of homemade soup which can usually be frozen for later use; or engage Panera Bread’s delivery service
- Introduce the person to Netflix Party Mode, which allows you to simultaneously view the same program
- Call often – hearing your voice helps a person feel less alone
- Even if they don’t answer the phone when you call, be sure to leave a message; they will know you were thinking of them
- If you know the person’s favorite song/hymn, send them a YouTube link of someone singing it
Please find ways to be a constant presence in the person’s life who is grieving the death of a loved one or experiencing other types of losses. You will be such a blessing, and you will also be blessed.
For more ideas on how to care for others, download our free e-book, 122+ Ways to Care Well.