Things that helped

We asked people to share something that someone did that really helped them in their grief.

Initially a lot of the grief support was, you know, your very typical, we're sending flowers. We're sending cards. Which, um, I actually really appreciated. Like, I loved, um, not just me receiving cards, but if people sent them to my dad or my sister. Like, I really, I really liked that. Um, and I know that, um, you know, my dad would be exc- ... you know, happy to hear things like, oh, your, your work sent a card. Wow. Like, that's, you know, that, that made him feel good that, that people ... they were remembering my mom. and I think just having a lot of times just, you know, people checking in. Um, and I wasn't really big, you know, on, again, on, on talking. Um, so text messaging was, was really good for me. And I know that gets a bad rap when it (laughs) comes to, to grief. And I'm like, well, no. Like, you can text it. And sometimes it, it's better to text it. Because I don't ... you know, sometimes I could look at the text and be like, I don't really know what to say to this. And it wasn't that, that ... it's not that it was a bad thing. I just, I don't, I don't really know how I'm feeling. But in three hours I can be like, oh, this is how I'm feeling (laughs). And, and I'd be able to respond. So, um, texting really helped in, in that way. Um, and the same a little bit, um, with social media. Just kind of putting an announcement out there, or even sharing pictures of my mom ... you know, I didn't feel like talking to people. I didn't wanna tell stories. But I wanted to look through pictures, and I wanted to share those pictures. And I didn't want to meet with somebody and have them come up to the house, and look at an album together. I just kind of wanted to put it out there.

When I wanted to talk to my wife about it she was very open and understanding, and I think that helped me through a lot of, just talking to her, I think that helped me through a lot of things that maybe were bottled up inside. Maybe it made no sense to her, but, you know, what I was saying, but it made all the sense in the world to me, and I think just her being there helped me through a lot of things. There were no, not necessarily any words that were transferred more than a person that you love is there with you for whatever it is that you were going through.

There were um friends in uh Trinidad who knew what had happened and they would call. People I hadn't heard from (laughs) in ten years. People I had lost contact with had heard through the grapevine that um... even an ex-girlfriend. (laughs) Right? People who had meant something to me in the past um friends I'd gone to school with, uh studied with and so on, called me up like out of the blue and said "Man, I heard. I just wanted to say, um you know I'm sorry to you. That's all." And uh I d- I didn't need much more than that but uh just turns out people were over there um walking that road with me was important. Just uh, a phone call from time to time when I was ready. Now, sometimes people would call and I would tell them "Call back." Grief does this, yeah. I slew down to the point where sometimes you don't want to talk to people. I would tell them when best to call me on the word. Or they would write me. So there were some good friends, Andrew and Isaac, would do stuff like that. And even today they called.

I had a friend send me a message, um, that she was having a package delivered to me, and she said, "I hope it's okay. It may make you cry." I thought, oh boy. And it was right after Valentine's day. And um, it was a picture of me and Drew that she had pulled from Facebook and had printed, and put in a frame that was shaped like a heart, and I love it. I keep it- I keep it by my desk. And it was just the most kind thoughtful gesture um, because- because I want to remember him, right? I want him- I want him with me.

I have a friend and one of my favorite things that she does on his birthday is she addresses stuff to him. And I just love it. I just get such a kick out of getting mail with his name on it. Where they, when they write to us, they write to all of us, and they name him, I think there's something in death about their name that becomes so powerful. To hear it, to see it. 'Cause you don't, you know, you take for granted saying the name of the people you live with who are in their everyday life, and there's something about seeing his name, and feeling it, that is so special to us. And the other things that we've gotten that have meant a lot to me are, like, people will send, like, cookies. Or we always bake them a cake, you know. Or, he has a whole collection of stuff on his table, his altar, where his ashes are, you know, little things that people have given us over the years. And that stuff means a lot to me. The stuff that I can keep and hold and look at. And that makes me think of him.

Our son was going into his senior year in high school And just getting him to school, you know. 'Cause I go to work really early, to beat the traffic. And, um, my sister-in-law was great. She offered to drive him every day and, and I could pick him up. It really helped that my sister-in-law volunteered to take John to school. It wasn't something that I had to have on my plate, and figure out. So, people just offering to do certain things. Initiating certain things. Um, without it being a big deal.

The support I had initially when John died, I, it makes me smile. Two people from the company I worked for, they came over and planted flowers in the yard and weeded out the garden cause I had an impeccable garden and impeccable yard. And they came over and weeded out the flower beds and stuff and planted flowers for me in my, in my garden to prepare for the onslaught, you know, visitors coming right. I just thought that was so touching and so endearing, you know, people came over and helped me organize the house. And when I decided to put the house up for sale, people came over in shifts and helped me unpack...pack up things and pack up books and clothing. Then you know, you know, just things that I had to go through. You know, so I was just so, I was just so touched by their kindness to help me through that initial stages.

I actually had one friend. And she just called me up and said, hey, I've hired a laundry service. They're coming to your house. All you have to do is stick all the dirty laundry in a trash bag, hand it to the person. They're gonna wash it, dry it, fold it and bring it back to you tomorrow. And it was like, oh, that, that's great. Like, I would have never thought to do a laundry service for some ... I would have never thought to ask. Like, it was just, you know, okay, this laundry, it's gonna be done. But, um, and the fact that, you know, it's ... Look, I don't even think she asked, you want me to do this? Because I probably would have said, oh, no, it's okay. It's fine. She just said, it's already done. Um, are you gonna be home at six? Yeah? And, great. They'll be there at six, and just have it in trash bags. And so that I think was amazing, to just, um, offer something. It's not intrusive. It's not, you know, like, somebody saying, okay, I'm gonna come into your house and, you know, invade your space. But it's just a minor service. There's no inconvenience to you. Um, and also the fact that, you know, they just said, hey, I'm doing this. And not asking, do you want me to do that? And that was kind ... that was actually pretty nice,

Our neighbor, Julie. (swallows) Just brought over ... about once a week, she would bring over a plate of sandwiches, or a bowl, or a pot of soup. And just, drop it off and leave. She didn't make a big to-do about. She just said, "here." Sometimes she came in, sometimes she didn't. She just, sort of left food for us. 'Cause ... and initially we were, like, "OK, a plate of sandwiches. I'm vegetarian, I'm not gonna eat a turkey sandwich." But what it did was that it meant that my dad and brother and some other caregiver people would ... around didn't have to think about lunch. And I didn't have to think about lunch for everyone or anything like that. Like, they were just, eat a sandwich. And that, (swallows) kind of expect ... like, no expectation, and no having to decide, kind of thing. It was really helpful. Like, if she had asked me about what kind of sandwiches I wanted, I would have maybe answered. But, I would have maybe not. Like, it didn't matter that I couldn't personally eat the sandwich. I still felt the benefit of the sandwiches there. You know? So ... as I've had friends go through that, I've tried to offer that same help. Not, "can I do anything?" But, "I'm bringing over enchiladas. What do you want in them?" Like, "Just tell me if you're vegetarian or not." You know? Or, "I'm bringing vegetarian enchiladas. How's that sound? I'm just gonna leave them at your door." Like, that kind of ... (swallows). You can open the door if you want. And we can connect, or you can just have the ... eat the support. You know?

one of his best friends got married, um, about nine months after- after Drew left. One day, his fiancee and his mother came to see me, and they wanted to talk to me about the wedding. And they wanted to make sure that I sat with family, and they wanted to let me know that at the reception they were going to have a picture of him, and they didn't want me to be caught off guard when I walked in and saw it. And then the other thing was that Anthony, his friend, wanted me to do a dance with him. It was a really touching moment, and it was so special that his friend wanted to remember and include Drew, because Drew would've been his best man, probably. He wanted to include Drew in that day, and that meant the world. It meant so much.

My uncle, who we weren't in a lot of contact with already, but he became very active in our lives all of a sudden after mom died, for, he was there for me and dad. And he lived in Atlanta. So he would often come visit us or invite us to visit him. And he would just take us out places like the museum or the aquarium or we're just hanging out with his family. And it kind of made us feel less alienated and just made us feel like we're part of a unit again. Um, I think I'm really grateful for that. And even though he didn't say much in regards to mom, he maybe so-, he would ask a few questions here and there, maybe something I would recall that he would ask about, but I think just being involved, being involved in other people's lives in a way that is nurturing, I think that helped a lot. I think I'm grateful for that, people who just include us in their family activities. You would think we wouldn't want that, but we actually did. It was nice. It kind of made us belong again, even if it wasn't within our own family. It helped a lot. Even our neighbors welcomed us in their homes and would share meals with us and ... But it wasn't out of pity so much. It was just kindness. And we really appreciated that to this day.

the next month, was Mother's Day. So that was obvious that we were not gonna celebrate Mother's Day the same way. And the neighbors uh, had like a uh, a street party. And we all, they all sacrificed their own private Mother's Day event at home to have a street Mother's Day. And they had like a collective Mother's Day festival (chuckles), on the street. And invited like um, Rose's sister and people like that. And that was quite helpful. I needed to do something physical because in exercising the large muscles of your body does release a lot of stress. Um, I found myself running. I like to run in nature in particular. And I explained that to you. This has to do with the restorative um role that nature automatically performs for you. Um, and I decided I can run the, the half in her memory. So the first race that I ran 2007-2008 was to raise money for Bud's Place; and I would wear her, one of her photographs on my shirt at the same time. So that went on from year-to-year. So I've been running um from 2008 or so until today. initially it was for Bud's Place. Because you have to run for something in a sense for motivation, something larger than yourself. And that's the important thing. there is a large movement even among, even in the hospitals and so on, to use ah nature -- the natural healing power of nature, um, to set up like gardens and so on in the hospitals. They do, there is uh, ah, they call it ... The Japanese call it Forest Bathing. It's called biophilia. Surrounding yourself with the natural environment. Because there's an interaction that happens between you and trees and plants and so on with you unconsciously absorbing all the negative ions and so on actually helps you. Plants supply the oxygen for you. That's all in the, that's a fraction of what they do for you, right? But it has a healing effect. And um that, the running allowed me to run in places where I felt at peace and uh I'm automatically drawn to running in places like, around here, a Park. I feel best when I'm running on the trail. And it's probably part of my own mental equipment. I run alone and in peace for a long period of time. And I feel a lot more calm when I'm done. I'm never really tired. I'm rather energized.

When you're caring for a person who's grieving, I think that a pert, that you, if you find out what you can do for that person within yourself, then, then also ask yourself, how can I keep doing it? Is it going to be one time? Is it going to be every year? How am I going to remember what type of person do I want to be to the grieving person in that moment? And for me, the handful of people that every November will come up and just grab me and give me a hug. I know one of my best friends at work just has it in his Google calendar for Paul's birthday, and I know how he remembers; I know what triggers him. It's, he feels emotion maybe when his reminder or notification comes up. Maybe he doesn't think about it, but the fact that he put it in his calendar, and it goes off, and he sees it on his phone, and he comes up to me and he says something. It's so meaningful; it's the consistency. You know, it's not actually the act as a person who's going to intentionally carve out that for as long as they can to make space for you. So I've been lucky in that regard. Really, really, lucky.

When Lily died it was like it was Armageddon. We had that, we just had that recently and brought it triggered then it bought back the memories uh from seven years ago when she died. So one of the one of my friends from work he came he came by our house and he bought us some stuff. He knew that we were British so we like to drink tea so he went to this grocery store and got us some milk 'cause he thought we might be needing some milk. And uh um but he what he did was he shoveled he took him about he went and shoveled the snow off our drive. We never asked him to do it he just came and did it.

I have a part of my backyard that's just dirt. It's always been dirt. but it gets, just weeds, so. It was having to manage the weeds. So sometimes my neighbor, which is next door, would just go in and cut my weeds down for me. I mean, that was just nice. I was, because it's- it's- it's lot of weeds. It looks really crazy. And then, I think I was starting to want to care for some things again. So I wanted to have a vegetable garden like my Dad used to have. So, friends just offered to- to come plant my garden. And I thought, "Okay that's nice. That's kind of a lot. You have no idea what's back here. It's a lot of work." Um, so I figured okay, they'll just, yeah, I'll just buy a couple extra planter boxes, and they'll just, we'll just set that up one day and have a barbecue and be done with it. But they came in and they did the whole thing And, it was just a beautiful thing. It was overwhelming how kind that was.