Neighbors form unique bonds over time. It may start with a wave and friendly "Hello!" on your way out the door in the morning. Maybe your neighbor has a riding mower and routinely mows your lawn. If you have a garden and grow a bunch of veggies, you might share some of your surplus with those around you. Before you know it, these friendly exchanges that took no real effort slowly evolved into meaningful relationships.
You may share very real parts of your life with your neighbors. These people, who may have been complete strangers before you moved into your home, may now have a special place in your life. Maybe they join you for your morning coffee and a friendly chat or hold a standing invitation to Sunday brunch. Perhaps they never forget your son's birthday and always have a little something extra for him in a birthday card.
Nothing beats good neighbors. So, if your neighbor has recently lost a loved one and you're wondering what you can do to help, read on.
When someone is grieving, it can be almost impossible to process how they feel and keep up with everything that needs attention. Grief is a process, and its course is not linear. Someone who may seem fine as they say a quick hello on their way inside the house after work may be barely holding it together later on that same day. They may also be under the added pressure of taking on the responsibility of burial arrangements and settling their loved one's Estate.
To make sure your neighbor is eating and doesn't have to be responsible for one more thing in their day, have dinner delivered. You can bring over a few nutritious meals yourself. Meals that are simple to make and can feed a whole family are ideal, which is why casseroles and recipes like funeral potatoes are so popular during times of grief. Rather than just drop some dishes off and leave, let your neighbor know that you are there if they want to talk.
Even if you enjoy spending time with your neighbor and want to help them during their time of need, you can't do it all yourself. No one can. It takes a village to raise a child and a community to help mend someone after a tremendous loss.
Websites like Meal Train allow communities and loved ones to organize meals for a neighbor or friend, near or far, during times of illness, surgery, the birth of a new baby, or the loss of a loved one. Lasagna Love is another way neighbors are feeding families, spreading kindness, and helping each other during tough times. Of course, as long as you know someone's address, you can have food delivered to them from virtually anywhere. If a particular restaurant doesn't offer delivery, you can still place an order from apps like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats.
We can all use a hand sometimes. Resources like these help communities coordinate help for someone in need while letting them know that they are cared for and supported by their community.
Mow Their Lawn
One way to help your neighbor going through a tough time is to help take some pressure off of them. You're probably not going to go over to their house and do their laundry, especially if you're not particularly close. But that doesn't mean that you still can't help them out in small, impactful ways.
Sure, it doesn't have to be mowing the lawn. It could be something else. You could offer to pick up something extra on your weekly grocery trip. But this particular chore is such an underrated kindness. For one, it's something that you can do on your own, without needing to discuss it with your neighbor first. Secondly, mowing the lawn isn't something that you do the day it needs doing. No, it's something that you think about doing until you can't put it off any longer. When your neighbor looks outside to see the lawn that was getting too high was already taken care of, they will no doubt be relieved. You will have given them back the time to do the countless other things they have to take care of.
These same things can be said about snow blowing or shoveling your neighbor's sidewalks during the winter. Sometimes, getting ready to do these chores can be just as exhausting as the chores themselves. If you’re outside snow blowing your sidewalks, take a little extra time to do your neighbor's walkways. It is small acts of kindness like this that can help your neighbor through a difficult period while also cultivating trusted relationships with those living nearest to you.
Give Them the Gift of Your Time
You may want to help bring a little peace to your neighbor's life with a small gift. Our culture dictates that we not show up empty-handed when we want to check in on someone. And, it is in our nature to want to be helpful during times of loss or need.
Instead of a casserole or joining the neighborhood Meal Train, you might want to bring your neighbor a small, thoughtful gift. Something like a potted plant that they can watch bloom and grow over time could mean a lot to someone going through the grief process. Even just a simple bouquet of colorful flowers can help add some cheerfulness to a home saddened by grief. Flowers offer a gentle reminder of the days to come.
You may also want to share things with your neighbor that you think might bring them comfort. Items like specialty tea or coffee and a new mug to enjoy it in. You may also include a selection of pastries or chocolates. If you're close enough, you might want to bring over a bottle of wine and some choice cheeses.
What all of these gift ideas have in common is that they come with the gift of time and thoughtfulness. Grief is lonely. While we all want to rush to help after a tragedy, grief sticks around far longer than the company does.
If you make your neighbor a meal, instead of dropping it off during the wake or after the funeral procession, wait a few days. When you present your casserole dish to your neighbor, ask to join them for dinner. You may not know how much they need the company.
A friendly conversation with a neighbor over morning coffee or an afternoon walk through the neighborhood could mean the world to someone who is grieving.
Plan for the Future
After the loss of someone in your social circle, it's normal to begin wondering about your own plans for the future. Are your assets and financial resources protected? Will your spouse be able to provide for themselves after you're gone?
Trust & Will is the leading resource for online Estate Planning. When you have questions about how to protect yourself and your family if something were to happen to you, they have answers from the experts. Their Wills and Trust-Based Estate Plans can be completely customized to meet your needs, whether you're married, have kids, or want to leave your legacy to charity.
It can be difficult watching those we have come to care about struggle through the grief process. Having a friendly ear and a supportive shoulder can help guide them through.