It's really hard to understand what living with grief is like until you have to live with grief. It's equally hard to know what it's like to get a life-threatening diagnosis, to have a miscarriage, or to be laid off until those events happen to you.
Because of this, it's easy to feel lost when you want to support someone who is grieving or going through a hard time. Unfortunately, most of the traditional avenues of support are actually not helpful. They end up giving the sender feelings of helpfulness ("Yeah! I sent a fruit basket! I feel better! I helped!"), but the receiver ends up wondering where to put the 5th fruit basket that they received (this happened to my husband's family when his mom died and they had a garage full of rotting fruit).
Nothing says I'm sorry your husband died like a basket full of...cut up pineapple dipped in chocolate (?)
I definitely don't want to belittle anyone who has reached out to offer support. Thank you for trying to help. That is great - and necessary. Sending something and acknowledging someone's pain is 100 times better than not saying anything at all. You showed that you care and that you were trying to help. But - back to the pineapple - here's some insight into traditional crisis gifts:
Flowers: Are beautiful. I love flowers. A bouquet or two can be nice at a moment of crisis, but inevitably, the receiver will get more than one or two. Flower bouquets also have a limited shelf life and tend to die around the same time that all of the out-of-town visitors for wakes/shiva/services/etc. depart. A pretty strong metaphor for what just happened in real life. If you really want to contribute flowers, it can make more sense to have them sent directly to the funeral home so that they are a part of the service, but not something that the grieving has to deal with after the event. Conversely, you can wait a month or two and send flowers later - to let the person know you're still thinking of them.
Fruit baskets: Sending food is almost always a good thing. Especially if it can be frozen and stored for the future. Fruit baskets, while packaged nicely, are not practical. Especially the cut fruit baskets which need to be eaten quickly.
Sympathy Cards: Cards are wonderful, just be sure you don't let the card do the talking. For advice on what to write, check out this post.
Meals: Food is an amazing gift. The best types of foods are those that can be packaged and frozen. Bonus points if you send the food prepackaged so that it can easily be popped in the freezer.
If you follow us on Instagram, there's a reason why we use the hashtag #noflowersnofruit.
The team behind Here for You has received all of the gifts above in our own experiences with loss. When my sister died we had plenty of cheese and crackers, but we didn't have hand soap. We found ourselves with a plethora of apples and pears, but we still had to start each day with a trip to the store to get the household essentials we were lacking.
When crisis hits, you get visitors. People don't typically think to BYO-TP (bring your own toilet paper) - and a family that is dealing with an unexpected tragedy wouldn't have stocked up on the essentials beforehand. With lots of visitors, and the details of life slipping to the side, they are going to run out of the things they need. That's why we've chosen the items in the Here for You box to keep them (and their guests) covered in the days when they desperately need help.
What's in the box?
Here for You boxes are full of the essential household items to help a family during a crisis.
Paper products: Toilet paper, paper towels, tissues.
Eating: Paper plates and cutlery so they don't need to worry about dishes. Freezer safe bags and a labeling marker allow people to handle the leftovers as the largest amount of food will arrive within the first couple weeks.
Cleanup: Trash bags and hand-soap
When we gift, we usually look for items that the receiver wouldn't get for themselves. If ever there were a time to give someone what they actually need, a crisis is the best time.
When sh*t hits the fan - give the gift of toilet paper.