Someone died. What do you bring or do for the family?

BG: I ride with a military support Motorcycle Club. Many of the members are retired Marines, some of them are active duty Marines and we all ride on 2 or 3 wheels. As a result of this, club members die more often than I’d like.

Last night, a friend and his girlfriend were hit by someone blowing through a red light. She’s dead and he’s still on a breathing tube. It sucks.

Some of us went to visit the lady’s family. I brought food and cash as did most others. One lady brought paper plates, napkins, plastic cuttlery and a big package of toilet paper. At first, I thought that was kinda weird. Toilet paper? Really? But after thinking further, I realized it was very thoughtful.

So, because I know this is going to happen again and probably too soon, I thought I’d ask the smartest people in the world…what do you do to help the family out in the first few days?

I take (or buy - depending on which I can leave) a suitably big pot, and all the makings for chicken soup. I stay and make it in the house. Always, (and it’s a big part of it) people want to help. It takes a while, it’s soothing, it gives everyone something to do, and there’s food for a few days even when you don’t feel much like eating. Not once has it ever failed to give the opportunity for a bit of a laugh too - maybe because there’s something comforting about it.

I think when there’s grief, those in it want people around, but they don’t want to be just sitting with them staring at the floor while the clock ticks in the background. Cooking chicken soup means that you can have those silences as well; but somehow it’s just quiet, rather than uncomfortable.

And as for arriving and taking over the kitchen, at times like this, nobody minds someone taking control of* something* for them - when you’re feeling numb, it’s nice to be gently ‘bossed around’ for a bit.

Always, the pot is a keeper for them - thinking about how and when to return it is not something they need…

If they have a dog, drop by to walk it. If they have kids, offer to take them to the park for a few hours.

More than once I’ve done what that one woman in the OP did. Paper products to eat of of, plastic utensils, paper towels, TP, and so on. Lot’s of folks bring food, and that’s needed, but doing dishes is a drag when you are happy, and worse when you are not.

I try to keep trash to a minimum and reduce waste, but there are just times when throwing away is less of a hassle.

I’ve heard of people offering to do laundry and such. I hadn’t thought about walking dogs, but that sounds like a good idea too.

Damn, I’m sorry to hear about your friends, flatlined.

Erm, up in New England we usually bring a case of beer, but I like the other posts on this thread better. 6Impossible’s post is great.

As I typed that out, I caught myself thinking “f-f-flatlined???”

C-can I ask how you came to choose your name here? Please be reassuring, thanks.

Food and anything you know they are lacking at the moment.

Never thought past food - soups, stews, casseroles, and loafs - things that can be portioned out and keep for a while. Will keep the paper products in reserve for the next time; excellent suggestion.

It depends upon how well I know the family / deceased and what the needs are.

One friend who lost her mother needed someone to sit with her grandfather (he was a dementia patient) during the services. I had a nice visit with an 85 year old gentleman who constantly either asked who I was or called me by another name. He did have a couple of amusing stories set in his youth though.

Usually, it’s a cake or casserole, paper goods or picking up relatives from the airport though.

Depending on your relationship with them, you can offer to make phone calls. Not to family, but to non-family who needs to be informed. If there are kids, their school, teams, activity coaches, etc all need to be notified if any classes/practices will be missed. If anyone in the family had a dentist/doctor’s appointment that now needs to be rescheduled, etc. This is obviously only appropriate if you are fairly close with them and would already be privy to these details of their lives. It’s so wearying to keep repeating the same bad news over and over.

Another option, if you’re friendly but not close, is to offer to pick people up from the airport.

That is such a wonderful idea. Not only is chicken soup a comfort food, the cooking smells are comforting as well. Thank you so much. Crock pots are cheap. I’ll pick a couple up on sale to have when needed. I usually make a pot roast (more comfort food) at home and bring it over. I think that having it cook there would be much better. Thanks again.

Another good idea. Kids don’t really understand what’s happening and could probably use a break from crying adults.

I honestly never thought about that before today. The family suddenly has a bunch of people in their home, the last thing they need to worry about is washing dishes or going to the store for toilet paper.

Thank you. I’m sad and mad. One impatient idiot, a life lost, a man possibly crippled and a 22 year old guy who’s life is never going to be the same. Things happen so fast.

Some of the guys bring liquid refreshments, but I kinda figure that if the family wants such a thing, they have probably already dealt with it.

I have now laughed for the first time today. My very own zombie thread :slight_smile: Thank you so much for that! Actually…the name was because I had routine surgery that stopped being routine and I flatlined for 7 minutes. I’m very non-creative when it comes to user names.

That’s why I bring food and money. I usually don’t know the family members, so don’t know what they are lacking.

I always feel so helpless. I want to fix things, but there is no way to fix a death. I’m uncomfortable talking about the lost one unless the family wants to talk about them and then I never know if I should share funny stories (many people don’t get biker humor, so telling about the time that Ticktok was taking a dump in McDonalds when we got ran out of town might not make them smile) or if I should just talk about their good qualities. Which is often biker humor as well. My favorite story about her is the time I found baby birds on the ground and she accosted people in the parking lot until someone drove home and returned with a ladder. Saving baby birds is good. Telling the family that she was offering to show her teats for said ladder might not be so good. I do know that telling the family that she did flash the ladder bringer would be a nono, even though that did inspire the guy to climb the ladder himself.

I think that from now on, if I’m stumped, I’ll bring the paper products, and I’ll add a big bunch of trash bags, too. Usually I’ve brought food. In one case, the family had come from wherever they had White Castle hamburgers, and a White Castle franchise had just opened. So I bought a bunch of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and fries, and I swung by a store and bought an assortment of sodas plus some ice. This was a big hit. I think that chicken soup would be a big hit, too.

I will note that thrift shops usually have very cheap but still quite usable crock pots and regular cooking pots.

The paper products was what made me start this thread. In retrospect, its such a good, common sense idea. Taking kids to the park is also something I never thought of. Again…what a good idea.

That was so generous and thoughtful and kind.

Another good idea and one that I never thought of. Asking to make the calls and having family think about who to notify could be a good distaction for them.

As a club, we do pick up people from the airport and take them around. His daughters flew in early this morning and were met with hugs and tears. This might sound odd…but we do up a duty rooster, so that there is always a few people at the hospital and with the families. Nobody is left alone unless they ask to have private time.

We are getting too good at this. I’m thinking that it’s pretty bad that I started this thread. I shouldn’t be getting so used to people dieing that I’m making plans for the next death.

Wanders off to cry some more.

Thank you everyone.

It’s good that your group can manage to do the right things in a bad situation. It’s terrible that your death rate is so high that you’ve become this practiced at it.

I’m sorry for your loss.

Hey! I see your leetle green lamp is on, so you haven’t fl–no, won’t even go there–you haven’t left yet.

It’s perfectly fine to get a mod to close a thread for you; it’ll sink to the bottom in no time.

One laaaast little thing though. You lost a friend and very nearly lost another. Don’t you need some support too? I effing loved that story about her. I can picture this amazing biker chick, accosting folk to just go get a ladder, and when that wasn’t working, offing a flash of the fun bags AND IT WORKING.

You want to come tell us some more stories? How’s that dumb cat of yours? I’ll bring the roast. :smiley:

Thank you, Lynn. It really bites. My vest has too many IMO patches. Usually, my brothers die from age or combat related things. It always hurts. A lot.

I don’t think I want this thread closed, I just needed to cry for a while. Idiot cat is offended like only a cat can be. I used his tail to wipe my face. WET HUMAN COOTIES!!!

I’m learning things and others are as well. Who would have thought about bring toilet paper to a grieving family? Not me! Next time, I’ll think more about the younglings. They tend to get forgotten. Ticktok’s grandkids might need to go to a movie after school tomorrow. I have no idea what kids movies are popular, do you have suggestions for under 7 years old? I do know a place with pinball games, maybe that would be a good idea too.

Ticktoc is a small female who got her roadname because she was the one who kept us on time. Picture a bunch of big burly bikers standing around talking and laughing. Smoking and drinking sodas or water. Looking like they are planning to be there all day. Suddenly a small (under 5 foot and maybe 90 lbs soaking wet) girl starts pointing at her wrist and snapping fingers. The result…everyone running to bikes and mounting up. She will be sorely missed.

Update. Tinker’s breathing tube was removed and he’s now breathing on his own. His daughters are at the hospital and won’t leave. I wouldn’t either. One of the club members thought to bring blankets and pillows. We shouldn’t be this good at this sort of thing :frowning:

I’ll probably not be here for a few days, my hospital shift starts in 5 hours, but please do continue to post suggestions about supporting the families. Sadly…this is knowledge I will use.

Here is the latest newspaper article. It ticks me off that helmets were mentioned. Again. They got slammed by someone going at least 45 mph. Helmets don’t save lives at that speed, but the media has to blame the biker for not wearing a helmet. Its the bikers fault…it doesn’t matter that they got hit by 2 tons of fast moving metal operated by someone who wasn’t paying attention. Its their fault. If they had been wearing helmets, they could have just walked away. says many bad words.

I might start my first pit thread about that. But not tonight. I’m going off to cry some more. Anger is starting to override the grief.

Edited to say that I thought that Ticktok was in her mid 40’s. She did take care of herself. I aspire to look that good at that age.

If the weather’s good, why not take them to the park? Get them outside and just running around. Don’t plan anything, just let them be kids and run off some energy. Let them yell. If they’ve been having to be quiet and respectful, this might let them wear themselves out.

Just as a counterpoint to what others have said about “camping out” with chicken soup at someone’s home, you should keep in mind that some people need space. It can be pretty overwhelming having dozens of people at your doorstep and invading your space while you are trying to make sense of what has happened. I speak from experience. No one is the same – just be aware, for example, that having to respond to “how are you feeling?” over and over again by separate people can be emotionally draining rather than supportive, despite the best of intentions. I’m not saying that everyone is like that – but be aware that some are.