The very pretty Stephanie writes:
Dearest wise and beautiful Mir,
This question isn’t really about bargains, but it is an area in which I felt your readers, including me, could benefit from your knowledge. The husband of a dear friend of mine, though not a very close friend, recently and very unexpectedly passed away. They have two young children. In addition to the overwhelming grief, I know that it will be tough on her to keep the household running, so I want to help her as much as I can. I dropped off some non-perishable, healthy, snack-like items so the kids can have something good to eat without her having to prepare anything, as well as some toilet tissue since so many people will be coming and going. I left her a card saying that I was there for her and the kids for anything they needed. I know she has family and close friends who will be there for her, but I would like to do more. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!
My condolences to your friend and her family, Stephanie. That’s a terribly sad situation, and it’s so sweet of you to want to think of ways to really help her out.
First of all, I want to tell you that I think the snacks and toilet paper idea was genius. You know it’ll all be needed/used, and it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming thing, and so kudos to you for coming up with such a great idea.
As for what else you can do, I have a few thoughts, and then I hope others will chime in.
She’ll need you more later. If she has family and such around right now, chances are that her fridge and freezer have been stocked and there are people tending to her every need—for now. The most difficult part of resuming life after a tragedy is that after a little while, everyone goes home and you are expected to “go back to normal” on your own. Right now she has help; later, she won’t. In a few weeks, anything you do will be even more appreciated than anything you could do right now.
Offering is nice, but doing is better. Speaking from personal experience, I know that even when someone says “let me know if I can do anything” that it can be very hard to actually ask for that help, even when you know it would be given willingly. When the time comes, don’t ask if she needs anything; show up with a complete meal (that can be easily reheated or eaten as is), or call her up and say “I’m taking my kid to the park today, how about I pick up your kids and take them with us?” Don’t be pushy, of course, but “I’m here for you” is easy to disregard. A solid proposal (or a pan of lasagna) is not.
You just happened to be cleaning out the closets…. This one is easy if you have an older kid than she does, but it can easily be accomplished with a “friend” as well. You (or your friend) were cleaning out the outgrown clothes and oh! Look! Here’s a bag (or two or three) of hand-me-downs that would probably fit her kid(s). Or here are some outgrown toys we were going to get rid of. How about that? You just thought you’d drop it off. If she can use ’em, great, and if not, no biggie, feel free to donate them. This is no-pressure help (and if you do it right—and really, who amongst us doesn’t know someone with hand-me-downs they’d be happy to offload?—totally without cost to you).
It’s berry season. I forget where you’re located, Stephanie, but around here we’re knee-deep in berries. If you go out picking, maybe you’ll end up with an extra bucket you could just drop off for her and the kids, because oops, you picked too many.
How close you are to this woman is going to govern how much emotional support you can actually lend, of course, but in the meantime, the best help comes in the form of things that are useful but also appear to be low- or no-cost so that she doesn’t feel guilty or beholden.
Readers: Other suggestions?