It is customary in Western culture to send flowers after learning that someone has died. This is done for coworkers, those far away, and even those very dear and close to us. We send flowers to their house or to the funeral home. Whena death is unexpected, people want to do something to comfort those in the immediate circle of grief. If a charity is named or an fund opened for the surviving children, people donate there. They do this because helps them to feel they have contributed. They want to relieve the pain of the loss.
After the ceremony, this mass of flowers must transported home to fill the house. When my husband died, many people sent flowers. I am grateful for each gesture of support I received. Still, I can only recall one arrangement clearly. It included a personal item very dear to my husband and I. After I wrote the thank you cards, these flowers occupied tables and corners in my home until they died. True, some we donated to hospitals and nursing homes. I know now that you can create jewelry from drying these flowers. But the work and energy involved in crafting jewelry from funeral flowers was not in possible in my grief. Funerals and flowers go hand in hand, but are not sufficient.
A number of gestures I received meant the world to me in those painful days following the death of my husband. I remember vividly my sister coming over the to help clean the house before the services. People sent food for me, my house guests and the visitors who came by in the days that followed. A few months later, I received a self-care package from someone who lived across the country. This provided comfort past the initial outpouring of support. The toughest part of putting my life back together had begun and I needed that. She had experienced her own loss and knew that as pretty as flowers might be, flowers were not enough.
Since then, I have had a number of close friends and family experience loss, and I wonder, what more can I do? I know I can do better than flowers, but how? Sometimes, I still send flowers or donate to the designated charity, but I don’t stop there. Depending on the relationship I have with the person in grief, I will reach out, email, text, call and/or visit. I do not ask what I could do for them. I know from experience that in grief, you often don’t know what you need. The act of answering can be a daunting enough task. Instead, I offer to take the person out for coffee, a meal, a movie, etc., and I keep offering them. I also reach out to the people I know in their lives to try and find out what support the person might need. Those closer to them know better than I what they may need. A team approach goes so muchfurther. We all have busy lives, and only know parts of the whole picture. We can form a team with great impact to the ones we care about and love.
We are all going to experience loss and grief repeatedly along our way in life. Using the knowledge we gain from those experiences can assist others and ourselves along the way. Opportunities for improvement in how we support each other during grief will come constantly. By sharing this, my hope is to help you become the best possible source of support you can be. My hope is that the amazing support you give will turn into support for that person’s friends and loved ones. My hope is that this continues to spread further and further out. We all can do better than flowers.