Alternative title: Flowers and Champagne are NOT the one……
This is a very strange post, I know. And to be totally honest I’m not sure how it’ll go down but it’s been in my head for such a long time, and I feel like it needs to get out immediately!
If you know anyone who’s ever grieved, or you’ve experienced it yourself you’ll no doubt be aware that flowers are the go-to choice of gift, am I right? Perhaps just a card? Or both? Probably both, to be safe.
But reframe this. Someone has died. Here’s a living thing that looks and smells nice but you will have to tend to it, find a receptacle for it and arrange it in a certain way. I know all you wanna do is curl up and cry, and you have a whole stack of admin to do., people to call and things to tick off your list (because nobody tells you that death is a total life-admin ballache) but here’s a little task for you to deal with daily. Until said task dies. And you have to bury it in the bin. Unless you forget, and it starts to stink like DEATH.
Don’t Buy Them Flowers
See what I mean? Flowers are actually one of the most annoying presents you can get someone who’s grieving. Or who’s had a baby for that matter. I guess that’s why the new wave of gifting boxes devoid of flowers came about.
But here’s a weird thing. There isn’t any type of ready-made gift box company set up for those who’ve gone through a bereavement. Isn’t that bizarre? In my research, I found gifts including chocolates (what?!), champagne (wha-what?!) and biscuits…….all with flowers.
I cannot imagine sending anything less appropriate than flowers and some champagne or chocolates to someone who has just ‘lost’ a loved one. Can you even imagine popping a cork and tucking into delicious celebration chocolates while you plan funeral songs, or ring round relatives to let them know what’s happened?
Maybe. I don’t know.
I can only speak from experience and tell you what I found helpful when my dad died. Things friends did they probably don’t even realise was so helpful.
Little kindnesses that broke my heart they were so touching, and made me feel less alone. Less scared. Less fearful of the future.
Grief is all-consuming. It’s frightening, and confronting and leaves you so raw you won’t know who to turn to but you will need people.
All the cliches are true, everyone deals with things differently and there is no wrong way to reach out to someone who’s grieving (bar punching them or burning their favourite dress or something nuts like that). But I want to share a few things to buy someone who’s grieving I think will be far more helpful than a bunch of wilting carnations.
I know this sounds odd, but there’s nothing better than receiving some home-cooked food when you are grieving. Something simple you can stick in the oven is ideal — pies, a chilli or a quiche are all ideal (diet depending obviously!).
I’ve even thought about ordering a Waitrose shop to e delivered with things like milk, bread and a few yummy ready meals too. Because, honestly, when they’re in the depths of despair they won’t be thinking about food, but they will need it.
SEND A LETTER
Not just a generic sympathy card, but a letter telling your pal you are thinking of them, and always will be. Someone sent me a letter within a card when my dad died sharing their own very personal grief story and it made me feel a lot less alone. I knew I had a friend I could text who was ‘in the club’ with a shorthand unlike any other.
So now, I always do the same for others.
TICK OFF THEIR TO DO LIST
Similarly to food, practical things are so key. If you work with someone, find their to-do list and just tick things off for them. Same with home stuff too. Cleaning…..dog-walking, trips to the vet — these are all things that’ll alleviate a bit of brain fog.
Even if they never realise these things were done for them, being able to return to work/home with one less thing to do is an amazing gift.
TAKE THEM FOR COFFEE
This might seem a little contrived, and feel a bit awkward. In fact, you might not even realise why I’ve added such an obvious thing to the list.
Well, I’ve added it because so often people forget to do the obvious. Actually. quite often I felt ashamed of my grief. I felt as though I had to pretend to be ‘normal’ in case I made everyone around me feel awkward and that made me feel nuts!
Other people’s grief can be overwhelming when you haven’t been through it yourself. Hence why being ‘in the club’ gives you a whole new level of freedom you didn’t have before. Freedom to ask: “How are you?” or say things like: “Grief is bullshit” with abandon.
Feeling ‘normal’ is such a glorious gift. One we all take for granted I think. Taking your friend for a cup of tea, glass of wine…..to the shops. Anything, really. Just do something small so they know you are thinking of them and you still wanna hang out with them despite the fact they *might* cry.
REMEMBER THE SHIT TIMES
This might not be straight away. In fact, it’s probably better if it isn’t straight away because grief doesn’t end the moment you bury someone.
In fact, after the funeral, when everyone’s stopped calling, sending flowers and checking up on you is probably the loneliest time of all.
The first few years are so tough, but the first year is the strangest — the anticipation of special ‘days’ like Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Christmas, Birthdays and anniversaries: of the death, the funeral, the last holiday you took together. These can all feel so poignan and, in my experience, are worse in their anticiaption than their actuality.
Honestly, I don’t recall anyone remembered the anniversary of my dad’s death and that did feel shit. Now, things like Father’s Day are less raw but still smart. So I try to always remember other people’s ‘shit days’.
I hope this guide helps you help someone who’s grieving. And if nothing else I hope you make them a pie 🙂