When my father passed away last June, his ward banded together and reached out to us with so much true service and compassion, we were amazed. I compared it to other experiences I’ve had with the passing of a friend or loved one, and realized that there were certain little deeds of kindness that made all the difference.
As part of our baptismal covenant, we are asked to “mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:9). I’d like to share some of the things I learned as a result of my dad’s passing to help us all more fully live this scripture.
Do Bring in Meals. It’s not necessary to wait for an assignment—if family is coming and going from the house, the food won’t go to waste. In the flurry of planning a funeral, contacting friends and relatives, and dealing with emotions, family members tend to forget to eat. Having food prepared and on hand is a true blessing. Include protein-rich items, and yes, be sure to include a few fattening items as well. The human brain is made to function best when a little bit of fat is in the diet.
Do Use Disposable Containers. It’s so nice to be able to throw away the containers rather than worry about returning them to the proper person. Salads can be brought in Ziplock bags, casseroles do well in aluminum baking pans. Also include paper plates and cups—thereby reducing the need to wash dishes.
Do Share Happy Memories about the Deceased. When all those who have gathered in mourning can laugh about the good times, it makes the event a joyful celebration of life. My sisters and I sat and laughed until our stomachs hurt after my father’s funeral, recalling all the little moments that burned brightly in our memories, and we all consider that one of the most healing things we’ve ever experienced.
Do Pray for the Family. During this time of heartache, it’s the unseen hands of strength that are so crucial. Pray for comfort, peace, and healing. Pray that each family member will be touched with sure knowledge that their loved one yet lives and loves them.
Do Offer to Help Keep an Eye on the House. Thieves are opportunistic, and if they know a house will be empty during a funeral, odds are, they’ll try to break in. Can you imagine how awful it would be to come home from a funeral and find that you’d been robbed? If you’d like to attend the funeral, arrange for your spouse or a friend to park in front and read a book, or in some other way establish a presence so the house doesn’t look like an easy target.
Do Use Sensitivity. Don’t say, “Well, at least they aren’t in pain anymore” or “They’re in a better place now.” These are true statements, but they can come across as downplaying the genuine emotions being felt by the mourner. Instead, support the family’s right to miss their loved one. Say things like, “I’ll miss him too. He was a good man.”
Don’t Be Too Anxious to Get Your Dishes Back. If you didn’t have the chance to get disposable dishes to transport the food you brought in, be patient with the family and understand if it takes a little while to get your dishes back. This is not high on their priority list, and they need time to sort through the everyday details like dishes and laundry and dusting.
Don’t Hesitate to Stop By with Expressions of Love and Support. I think we often feel hesitant to visit, afraid we might be intruding, but in reality, it’s good for the family to have visitors. It’s especially good for the spouse of the deceased to be surrounded by friends and loved ones. Of course, everyone needs time alone to pray and to process what happened, but they should not be alone for long stretches of time, and your friendly visit can mean the world. The exception to this would be if the death was caused by a criminal act or in some other way was unexpected and tragic. In these situations, there may be police involved and additional grief to sort through. I recommend calling a neighbor and assessing the situation before visiting.
Don’t Feel Awkward about Sharing Your Testimony. Death brings beautiful opportunities to share gospel beliefs and to reaffirm how blessed we are in the knowledge that there is life after death, that our loved ones wait for us on the other side, and that we are bound together through ties of love eternally. There is no better time than this to remember our testimonies and to rely on them for strength.
No death is easy. Even if it does come about as a relief after a long period of suffering, it is still a difficult process. Emotions are tender and sometimes raw. But with the love and support of caring friends and family, it can be turned from a time of utmost sorrow into a time of remembrance and peace.
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