10 Ways to Help Someone Who is Grieving During COVID-19

Under pre-quarantine circumstances, we would consider attending a funeral or sending flowers when a friend would suffer the loss of a loved one.  The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away those options, however, and has left grieving people feeling more alone than ever. Here are some meaningful ways you can care for someone who is grieving from afar:

  1. Pray

Pray that the family feels God’s peace surrounding them and that they find comfort in the care and concern of loved ones like you.

  1. Send a sympathy card.

Expressions of sympathy are appreciated from the date the loved one passes away throughout the entire grief journey. Never worry about being “too late” to send a sympathy card or let someone know you are thinking of them. Time moves differently for grieving people, so they will appreciate hearing from you at any time.

  1. Offer practical help.

Saying “if there’s anything I can do, just let me know” is nice, but not especially helpful. As examples, ask if you can drop off a meal for them, or if they running low on anything you can drop off to them from the grocery store. You can also offer to handle any donations of clothing or medical supplies. For these more involved tasks, ask after a few weeks have passed to give the grieving person time to recognize what would be helpful. Respect their wishes if they decline your offers. Just because they decline doesn’t mean it’s not appreciated. If the person accepts your offer, follow through on it!

  1. Make a donation in memory of the loved one.

Many families have begun suggesting a specific church or non-profit organization to receive memorial contributions in lieu of flowers at a funeral. Giving a donation in someone’s memory is an appropriate and meaningful expression of sympathy.

If no organization was suggested in the obituary, you can ask your grieving friend for ideas or choose an organization that might be fitting to the deceased loved one’s life. When in doubt, choose a cause that is near and dear to you. Be sure to indicate the details regarding the memorial with your donation. If you would like for them to notify your friend of receiving your gift, include that request with your donation, along with your friend’s name and address. Do not rely on the non-profit to know this information, even if the family suggested it.

  1. Call the person or set up a FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or other face-to-face call.

While there is no substitute for in-person conversations, a conventional phone call will be greatly appreciated.  If the grieving person is up to it, you can take advantage of technology by setting up a face-to-face call. For multi-user platforms, like Zoom, you can even arrange to have multiple friends chat with each other at the same time. Click here for our article on 5 Dos & Don’ts when talking with a grieving person.

  1. Make a care package.

You can include things like tissues, comfort food, lip balm, and mints, as examples. Even after stay-at-home orders are lifted, recognize that your friend might prefer you to “ding-dong-dash” after leaving the package. It might be helpful for you to let them know the care package is coming, so it doesn’t sit out for too long.

  1. Share a positive memory of the loved one.

Hearing or seeing the loved one’s name in this way is usually very comforting to someone who is grieving.  You can bring up a positive memory during a phone call, or even include a little story in a care package or with a note.

  1. Send or share the Journeying through Grief book series from Stephen Ministries.

These four little books make a big impact on those who are mourning the loss of a loved one. Their content is no less timely during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on this ministry and ordering the books, visit: https://www.stephenministries.org/griefbooks.

  1. Offer your continued sympathy throughout the individual’s grief journey.

Many people don’t realize that it can take someone 3-5 years – or longer – to work through his or her grief. Make a point to touch base with them throughout that time. When grieving people may be in “the pits” – usually 4-7 months after their loss – it is especially important for them to know you care.

  1. Remember the upcoming “firsts.”

Be mindful of all of the firsts the person will experience without his or her loved one, and express your concern on those occasions – that first Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or that first Christmas or hockey season, as examples. The anniversary of the loss can be a very difficult day. Reaching out by phone, by text, or with a card on or approaching any of these dates is deeply appreciated. When someone you care about loses someone they care about, if you only pray, speak, and act in Christian love for that person, you can’t go wrong.

For information about starting a personal grief ministry or a grief ministry in your congregation, please contact Health & Wellness Ministry Coordinator Patty Davidson at (412) 367-8222 or patricia.davidson@lutheranseniorlife.org.