Comfort without touch: Offering support during a pandemic

Posted on February 15, 2021 by under Uncategorized
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As funeral professionals, we often encounter people on their worst day, people in despair, in crisis, in pain. We know we can’t fix it. We know we can’t take away the pain. But we hope to ease it and bring some comfort through the care we provide.

Today, that care looks different than it did a year ago. As we sit with a mother who has lost a son, or a man who has lost his brother, we clench our hands together. How do we comfort when we can’t reach out and touch someone?

Funeral directors aren’t the only ones looking for new ways to comfort others. Our automatic response to pain, the urge to touch the crying mother’s hand, to embrace the grief-stricken friend just isn’t possible right now. Instead, we watch, through eyes perched above a mask, trying to find words when words are not enough.

However, it isn’t all bad news. These difficult months have taken some tools away, but we have gained some too. If you have a friend who has lost someone, try these ideas to give them some comfort.

Send a Care Package
A care package is a hug in a box. There are lots of creative online retailers that will customize a box of soothing items, or you can call someone local to support a local business along with the recipient. Check out these options online: https://www.etsy.com/market/grief_care_package; or send a box of cookies anywhere you want to keep it local: https://mmcookie.com/ship-cookies/.

Walk and Talk
Whether helping a friend nearby, or someone far away, walking and talking can be a great way to work through the stress. You can set up a time to walk together in person or schedule a phone call and a walk from afar. It is a great way to be together, and the physical benefits of the walk are sure to lift the spirit. Learn more about how walking can help with grief here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201603/walking-through-grief-and-healing

Make a Donation
Many people suggest a donation in lieu of flowers, but to make it even more meaningful, send a card with a message of encouragement and even a story to go along with the donation. Maybe you have a memory of the person that is associated with the organization, or you might have a connection to the cause as well. A little personal touch goes a long way.

Pick up the Phone – more than just once
Soon after a death, the cards and phone calls are abundant, but they start to trickle off after a month or two. Mark your calendar for a few months after the loss, or better yet, create a recurring calendar reminder to call your friend weekly or monthly. A phone call or text acknowledging the loss, with a message as simple as, “thinking of you” can be a great reminder that they are not alone.

Leave a Message Online
Most online obituary pages have the option for you to leave a message or memory. The family can go back to this online guest book at any time and your message will remind them how much other people cared for their loved one too.

Send a Card with an IOU
A good, old-fashioned card is still a great option. Your card can include a simple message like, “I don’t know the best words to use, but I am here,” or “Sending hugs from afar.” Steer clear of offering advice or clichés like, “she’s in a better place.” Less can be more in this case. You can even include an I.O.U. for dinner and a hug when the pandemic is over.

Take care of yourself
It is easy to feel helpless when someone you love is hurting. But make sure you are taking care of yourself too. It is hard to help others when we are not feeling physically or emotionally okay ourselves. Ask for support, seek out resources: https://www.allhealthnetwork.org/colorado-spirit/, eat healthy foods and get exercise where you can so that when this is all behind us, you’ll be there with that much needed, and long-awaited hug!

As funeral directors, we don’t always have the right words to say, but we are learning more every day about how to help people through loss in a very unconventional time. Feel free to share your ideas and experiences in the comments section – we are always looking for more ways to help those we serve and be a positive light in our local community, both now and in the future.

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