How you can help in the first few days

The first few days after a death can be a very difficult time. It’s important to have the support of a caring funeral director, family and friends to help you through.

If people ask you what they can do to help or you would like to help but just don’t know how, here are some ideas:

  1. Pick up family members from the airport that are coming for the funeral.
  2. Offer an extra bedroom to out-of-town family members or friends. Not every home can accommodate extra guests and the grieving families may need space of their own.
  3. Bring folding chairs and tables to the home – they are easy to set up and take down as needed to make visitors comfortable.
  4. Ask if they would like you to reply to any messages on their behalf, that have come in on voicemail, texts or social media.
  5. Bring small packs of tissues to the funeral.
  6. Bring large umbrellas to shield family from rain or sun at the funeral.
  7. Bring ice in an esky for drinks, fill with water bottles and single serve soft drinks.
  8. Offer to drive grieving people where they need to go. Deep grief can impair driving and concentration. Be willing to sit in the lobby or parking lot – they may want company while finalising arrangements or meeting with the celebrant or clergy.
  9. Clean their house. Ask if you can do a load of washing or take home a basket of ironing.
  10. Help with gardening tasks. Mow the lawn. Sweep. Rake leaves. Tidy flower beds.
  11. Bring toilet paper. Paper towels. Paper plates. Napkins. All the things you need when there are extra people in the house.
  12. Offer to take over carer responsibilities if one or more of the bereaved people is a carer, but only if you are sure you can competently manage this.
  13. Take children to the park or out for ice cream. However, be mindful that not all children will be comfortable leaving their parents at this time.
  14. Clean the family’s car before the funeral.
  15. Take the dogs for regular walks.
  16. Offer to drive the family or out-of-town relatives to the funeral and home again.
  17. Cook meals. Bring them in ready to heat dishes or plastic containers for freezing. And don’t expect them to be returned.
  18. Offer to take clothes to the drycleaners - and pick up in time for the funeral.
  19. Offer to be the one who sits with and takes care of toddlers at the funeral, allowing the parents to focus their attention on the ceremony
  20. Stay in touch – experience tells us that after the funeral is over, visitors and offers of help decline quickly, this is a time when help around the house, ongoing support and a listening ear can be much appreciated.

The information in this section contains extracts from 'Now that the funeral is over – understanding the effects of grief' by Doris Zagdanski, copyright 1993. They are reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

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