Guest Blogger: Janice Miller
When you’ve lost a friend or family member but you live a long distance away from them, it’s not always possible to make arrangements to be there for their memorial. You may not have the travel funds or be able to get the time off from work you need to get there — especially if the death was sudden. This can lead to feelings of guilt and helplessness on top of the many emotions associated with grief. That’s why it can be very helpful to lend a helping hand to those mourning in whatever way you can. Additionally, finding a way to honor to your loved one’s memory yourself can be a powerful source of healing and closure.
Managing Your Own Grief
If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t care for anyone else. Whether you’re a novice when it comes to losing people or you’ve dealt with grief before, it’s never easy. Make sure you are caring for yourself and keeping up healthy habits that support your self-care habits and physical and mental well-being. It’s okay to let yourself feel bad when thinking about your loss, but balance out the time you spend grieving with activities that make you feel good. Exercise to get a rush of feel-good endorphins and release any stress you may be carrying. Enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of hanging out with your pets. Throw a small dinner party and nourish yourself with good food and company. Read to de-stress, get in touch with your emotions, and improve sleep. Whatever it is that comforts you during this difficult time, pursue it while avoiding unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, compulsive spending, and comfort eating.
Helping from Afar
The key to helping your grieving loved ones when you can’t be there in person is communication. Get in touch with one contact person with whom you can coordinate and ask if there is anything that the family needs. They may be able to include you on a meal train or ask you to contact other friends who do not have received the tragic news yet. It’s best to have a single point-of-contact rather than trying to coordinate with multiple people because the simplicity cuts down on the chance of miscommunication.
There isn’t one best practice for what to do when you miss a funeral. You can send a sympathy card or flowers, but it really depends on your style. Some people find that cards and plants are wasteful and prefer to donate to a charity in the deceased’s name. If you have the funds available, a great way to help is by paying for housekeeping services for the spouse or parents of the deceased. People who have lost an immediate family member often neglect everyday chores while they adjust to their new reality. Having someone come in to help with these tasks ensures they aren’t surrounded by stress-inducing messiness while they grieve.
A Long-Distance Memorial
Helping the loved ones they left behind is a wonderful way of honoring the deceased’s memory. However, finding ways to commemorate your loved one yourself can also be a helpful catalyst for moving on. Think of a way to do it that is both unique while reflecting your friend or family member’s values. For instance, if they were a staunch environmentalist, consider planting a tree in their memory. Or, if they left behind a young child with a bright future, set up a college fund where people can contribute. Or, simply spend a day committed to doing things that you loved to do when together and keep their memory with you through every moment. Your memorial should be as personal as your relationship with the deceased.
Grieving from afar isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s necessary and unavoidable. Tend to your own emotions, and keep up healthy habits that contribute to both your physical and mental wellness and self-care practices. Do what you can to help from afar, whether that’s sending food or contacting friends so the family doesn’t have to. Finally, make time to do a small memorial for yourself where you honor the deceased and provide an opportunity for closure.