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“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Steven Waldman

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November 11, 2016Nov 11, 2016

P0714 Steve with college friends 2

“Is there anything  I can do to help?”

We’ve all said this to people weathering the loss of a family member. Their answer might be “make a donation” or “just having you here is comfort enough.” More often the cloud of their grief disguises their real needs.

But there is something else that friends and family can do that would be hugely valuable: tell a story. We don’t mean write a biography or a whole essay. We mean literally: tell a single story about the person.

What we as friends can do is relieve some of the burden by helping to preserve memories. You don’t have to organize a big project; just tell a single story. If each friend does that, the bereaved will end up with a mosaic of memories that will be more vivid than even a story that they could write.

Need inspiration? Here are some ideas:

Tell a story.

Describe a moment that you treasure with that person. Be detailed, and explain what characterstic that anecdote conveys. Or you could video tape your self (using your phone) telling that story

Send a photo

The best would be a photo of you and the deceased together but any photo that the family might not have would be an incredible treasure.

Answer a question

At LifePosts and some other memorial sites, if you’re stymied on what to say, you can just answer a question.

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Screengrab a social media post

If the person ever commented on something you posted online, you might consider making a copy and sharing that with the family. Tiny bits of everyday life can provide little snapshots of the person’s personality and passions that the family might not have.

Preserve an old email

You have gotten an email from the person that captures their personality, and might be worth sharing.

Capture a voice message

If you have a voice message on your phone from the person, save it and share it.

Share a copy of a eulogy

If you did offer a eulogy, share a copy with the family. In the chaos of the moment, a lot of families forget to collect those.

Organize a small story-burst

If you want to do more, you can be the one who initiates the creation of an online memorial. Or you can organize a part of it. On LifePosts, you can create your own LifeTimeline event or LifeQ question and then send that around to friends. If you knew this person in high school, for instance, you can create a timeline event about that and then send the link to other friends from college.

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The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to try to capture the person’s whole life. Think of it like a pointillist painting. If you stare at it up close, it’s just a bunch of dots. But if you step back, each dot has helped make a beautiful image.

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