When a friend, family member or acquaintance loses a loved one to the Lord it is difficult to know what to do or say. When I was younger, I often avoided the issue all together, fearing I would say or do the wrong thing. We say we are sorry for their loss and send a card or flowers, but as I began to experience my own losses, I gradually formed a better understanding, compassion and sensitivity of how to gently approach someone who is grieving and I wanted to do more to show that I cared and sympathized in their sorrow.
Beginning with the gift of prayer…. When we are broken hearted and weak, I find it is often difficult to even find the strength to pray. Many years ago I purchased Marianne Williamson’s book of prayers “Illuminata”. I’ve loss track of how many copies of the book I’ve given as gifts to friends and acquaintances experiencing difficult phases in their lives. In some cases I simply print out one of the prayers that apply to the circumstances of a troubled friend. In this case the prayer for the deceased offers words that help those left behind not only pray for their loved one, but also for themselves. I simply print it and place it inside of a card.
One of my callings – is to cook, so my best gesture is preparing food, usually something light but comforting and hearty for the queasy stomach and broken heart. Loss of appetite can sometimes occur in times of heartbreak and it’s important for everyone to stay nourished. I used to prepare starchy casseroles or pasta dishes, but over time I’ve found soup to be more soothing. My current go to’s are a large pot of Tuscan White Bean & Chicken Soup or Italian Wedding Soup with shaved parmesan accompanied by a bakery fresh crusty bread. The friend that I prepared this soup for gathered her family together for dinner the night before the service and served my soup.
It is traditional in the South as I’m sure it is in other parts of the country, that a wake or viewing (funeral service) for the deceased may be scheduled a day prior to or a couple of hours prior to the gathering at the ceremonial burial site – for friends, family and acquaintances to come and say their goodbyes, pray for the deceased and offer condolences to their family. There is usually a break room or kitchen area where coffee is available and it is the responsibility of the family to provide something to snack on, usually donuts.
For this I help out the family by baking a couple of sweet loaf breads such as pumpkin or banana or muffins and chocolate chip cookies for the children. Below are banana coconut walnut and old fashioned donut muffins for this service and cookies for the kids.
When we lose a loved one, it can feel like we are under water physically and emotionally, completely lost in the current. We go through the motions, but can find ourselves slowly drowning, especially when a loved one’s death is sudden and unexpected.
I hoped to lift my friend’s spirits with a gift bag filled with my card, prayer, a large bottle of bubble bath and a facial mask. The shock and pain of someone’s passing can wear the body and mind down. A bath of warm lavender suds and the soothing cool facial mask may offer some relief to her, even if only temporary, to recharge her a little for the days ahead. A warm bath can allow her some private time to just rest her weary mind and body for a while, have a good cry and pull herself back together.
Whatever you choose to do to show your condolences, let it come genuinely from your heart. If you aren’t a good cook you can always pick up a rotisserie chicken and salad kit with a bakery coffee cake and cookies. I only hope to inspire you to form your own ideas and traditions for being kind in what is your friend or family member’s most difficult time.
“He saw Jesus, and it took his breath away”… Kathy Lee Gifford (song)