Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Wants to Offer Practical Help to Grieving Friend

DEAR HARRIETTE: A dear friend of mine has recently lost her husband of 24 years to a blood clot that traveled to his heart. She has four children who are currently in school, with one still in grade school.

I reached out to my friend to offer my condolences, and I told her I would help her and her family. When is the best time for me to extend my hand to help? I don’t have money to offer, but I do have time. I can help with homework, around the house -- things like that. -- When to Help

DEAR WHEN TO HELP: Call your friend and ask if you can come by to visit on the weekend. Schedule a time to sit down and talk to her. Check in to see how she is managing and what, if anything, she has put in place to support herself and the children thus far. Go there with clarity about what you can commit to doing to help them out. This is important because you don’t want to offer something that you cannot consistently fulfill. Think about what you can do on a regular basis and what can be one-off duties. Be mindful not to be too pushy. Just let her know that you want to support her in whatever ways you are able.

Remind your friend that there are people who love her and the children, and that she is not alone. You may want to reach out to other friends of hers to see if they are able to pitch in as well. Since she has younger children, I'm sure she will appreciate the support.

If she is reluctant to accept your help at first, do not give up. She is in mourning and trying to figure out her new life. It may take time for her to welcome your generosity.

Read more in: Death | Etiquette & Ethics | Friends & Neighbors