“Let me know if you need anything.” he told me as he hung up the phone.
“Let me know if you need anything.” she wrote on my Facebook wall.
In all honestly, those seven words sound very genuine…very sweet…very helpful…to the one saying them, that is. As one who walked the widow road, I actually learned to cringe when hearing those words.
After experiencing such tragedy, I needed someone to simply tell me what they were planning to do. Or give me simple choices to make…”Would you rather me bring dinner on Friday or dessert on Saturday?” But, the open ended statement of “let me know if you need anything” was simply…S.T.R.E.S.S.F.U.L. The last thing a person who has just experienced loss needs to know is that they have to now coordinate their own needs.
In the case of my widow journey, I simply had too many other things to coordinate or plan…a funeral and burial, how to dress my husband for burial, funeral expenses, estate plans, how to help my child return to school, when to return to work, when to go to counseling, what to eat since food is difficult to stomach these days…you get the idea.
Now…PLEASE don’t misunderstand me. I know this is generally a statement utilized when someone doesn’t know what else to say or truly doesn’t know how to help and is looking to the one grieving to figure that out for them. But, if at all possible, please don’t place that burden on them. Try to be more specific in your offer to help, or at least phrase the question in a way to narrow down the alternatives. This also helps them to know you really do want to help and are not just making an idle statement. How about these alternatives?
“Our children are going to the park tomorrow, can I pick up little Johnny to go with us?”
“We’re making soup and sandwiches for Saturday lunch, will you be home for me to drop off some for you?”
“I’d like to cook some meals for you to have in your freezer at a later date, will you be home Thursday or Friday evenings for me to drop them off?”
“Make I take you shopping to buy yourself something special to wear at the funeral?”
“When is your first counseling appointment? I’d like to drive you that day and will wait for you to finish. We can then go for a walk or go have coffee – whichever you prefer.”
There are exceptions to every rule, I know that, but I’ve discovered in talking with others that have experienced loss that they truly wish people would just DO instead of OFFER TO DO.
So, if you’ve experienced hesitation in the past in this area or offered that blanket “let me know if you need anything” statement to someone, I encourage you to ask God to show you a specific need and then simply meet that need. You will be blessed in serving, and the recipient will be blessed by not having to coordinate their needs!