Condolence gift after a sudden passing
September 4, 2018 10:53 AM   Subscribe

An acquaintance/former colleague lost her husband very suddenly. I want to send something to her door that will be helpful in some way.

They have young kids (under age 10). I have already contributed to the GoFundMe for funeral costs, but I'd like to send something practical/comforting to help the three of them in the day-to-day.

What did you receive/what have you sent in the days after a sudden death that was useful or eased some stressor? Taking over in-person tasks is handled as the family and friends on both sides are helping out there.
posted by assenav to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I lost my dad, my work sent me an Edible Arrangement and it was kind of the perfect thing for me -- food in general had tasted weirdly wrong all through those weeks but the fruit was fresh and really appetizing.
posted by mochapickle at 11:04 AM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Gift card for housecleaning service, self-care activity, or a local restaurant that delivers?
posted by ramenopres at 11:09 AM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

When someone close to me lost her husband, all I could think was that I would want comfort food in her situation. I sent her chicken pot pies from Harry & David. They come frozen, so they can be stored in the freezer until she needs them, and then just tossed in the oven and ignored while they cook. She said they were the most amazing pot pies she'd ever had, and felt like a home-cooked meal instead of the usual take out.
posted by thejanna at 11:33 AM on September 4, 2018 [7 favorites]

I got my daughter (mom of young kids in need of a break) a gift certificate for a frozen meal delivery service. This wasn't for a death, but I think it would be good for that. She loved it - they got to choose what meals they wanted, and the food was really good. Since it was a gift certificate, she also got to plan around her freezer size. I used Veestro, which is vegan, so that's the only one I can personally recommend, but there are lots of services like that.
posted by FencingGal at 11:48 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

When my mother died suddenly when I was a kid, a lot of people sent lovely homemade food, which was very kind and mostly went uneaten.

One neighbour whose husband had recently died, leaving her as the sole parent of 3 young kids, brought over a couple of bags of a wide array of junk food, which I will always remember as a really kind thing that met us where we were at.

Your mileage may vary, if they're very health-conscious folks, but it was the kindness we needed at the time.
posted by ITheCosmos at 12:09 PM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

When a family member passed away unexpectedly and at an early age, a lot of people sent food. Which was nice, but eventually we became inundated with it. Sadly, a lot of the home-made stuff ended up getting thrown out because we literally couldn't eat or store it fast enough. The packaged, shelf-stable food was more useful, because it just got stored for later (or got donated to the food pantry, in a couple cases).

If you want to give homemade food to someone who is also going to receive a bunch of homemade food from other people, the best thing I can suggest is something that freezes, already prepped to go into the freezer, with reheating instructions. A casserole in a disposable aluminum pan is pretty nice (and those things last, like, years in the deep freeze).

The first food to get thrown out and wasted was the stuff that people gave in dishes that needed to be returned to them. Managing all the dishes became A Problem and the easiest way to solve it, given the surplus of food, was to simply throw out everything that arrived in dishes that had to be returned, clean them, label them with who they needed to go back to, and put them somewhere out of the way. Seriously, they were a source of stress. Don't give people something where you're creating a return-logistics problem for them. If the dish isn't obviously disposable, clarify that they can keep it so they don't think they have to clean and return it to you promptly.

Anyway... although it may feel less personal than homecooked food, something that's useful in the weeks or months down the road — when most of the well-meaning people have gone home and the food has been eaten — is really the nicest thing, I think. Delivery-food-service giftcards, if you're in an area where those are A Thing, seem like they'd be particularly nice.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:24 PM on September 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

Paper plates, paper towels, plastic cups, extra TP. We had so many people in the house and people made sure we didn't have to do dishes or worry about running out of TP and that was so much help.

Extra liquids were helpful. There was a ton of food, but the water at my dad's house is pretty hard if you're not used to it; having sodas/bottled water on hand to offer people was nice.

If you do food, check in about food allergies. The cousins who brought food my sister and I could actually eat deserve sainthood.

People who didn't send flowers (which were gorgeous but there were SO MANY and they ended up just dying on my dad's porch) and instead donated to the cancer society or something useful were appreciated. An online friend that I've met a couple times send a donation to my mom's church's ladies circle, even though friend is not a churchy person, because that community meant so much to my mom, and I'm tearing up thinking about it 2.5 years later.

Set a calendar reminder to check in with them 1/3/6/12 months down the road and see if they need a casserole / help with child rides / just someone to go on a walk with. We had a ton of help right after, and then that just dissipated. Which is fair - people have their own lives - but help cleaning out mom's craft room or the kitchen shelves a month or two down the line or not having to worry about dinner one night would have been amazing.

If you knew Husband well enough to have good stories about him, check in in a few months and see if your friend wants to hear happy stories about him. Everyone grieves differently, but most of the people I've known in the last few years who've lost someone want to hear about their loved one. People avoided talking about mom with me after (and well, I was crying a lot, so I can't particularly blame them), but a couple years out, I want and need to hear stories about her (especially the funny ones). When we stop talking about her, that's when she's gone.
posted by joycehealy at 2:49 PM on September 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

Others have covered a lot of what I needed when it happened to me, and what I've seen from a cousin with small children a the time of her husband's death. Food, especially no-prep, shelf stable, and kid suitable because cooking is hard, and the fridge is full. In her case the 4 year old refused to eat homemade food he'd never seen before so it was a struggle to keep him fed. Consumable non food items like containers to put leftovers in the fridge because of all the casseroles and lasagnas everyone is bringing them.

If they have pets, put supplies or toys would probably be welcome. Comfort items like a snuggle blanket for each kid are good too. Tickets to kid friendly experiences, places they can go as a family away from the house like local children's museums etc. Even just movie passes.

Checking in after a few months is a huge thing. Myself and my cousin both experienced this - there can be shock and numbness at first, and your life is taken up with small details and other people demanding that you perform your grief and show gratitude for their support. You can get by for a month or two on emergency mode, but eventually you will exhaust your own reserves as well as all the supplies you might have had in the house before the event. When that fog starts to clear and you are trying to restart your life without one half of your household's management team, that's when you realize that you need things.
posted by buildmyworld at 3:19 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thank you all for your input. I sent gift cards for outings and food, some books for the boys, and set a reminder in my phone to check in with her in six months and a year.
posted by assenav at 9:34 AM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Right after my father died, we were all sitting around stunned. Also there was a power outage from a simultaneous thunderstorm (way to go out with a bang, Daddy!) & that didn't help.

Some family friends came by, plopped down a big bag of Chinese food, said "Sorry," and immediately split. I will love those people forever.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 2:25 PM on September 5, 2018

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