Beyond the Meal Train :: How to Help a Recent Widow and Her Kids


Not sure if you heard the Walters’ news in the last post, but, y’all, in short…nothing good happened.  Now I’m turning all this around to talk about ways you can help a recent widow and her kids. Meal trains are great, but in those first few days and weeks, so much food comes in and no one has an appetite.

Here are a few OTHER ideas to help a family in need:

Gift cards to restaurants—especially takeout or delivery.

Or call the family and ask what day would be good to send over a pizza. Have it delivered and paid for and tip the driver for them—because sad mom won’t remember to. The family already feels like a circus side show from all the pity and attention. Let them stay in and shelter together for a while, helping them meet their needs at their own pace. Think gift cards to grocery stores or gas stations, even a movie gift card or two. Give them the blessing of necessities and time together. It’s better than a pot roast any day.

Plastic freezer bags, foil, plastic wrap, or other freezer containers.

The family will never eat all the brisket that arrives at their house, but mom can freeze it and use it for a whole host of things down the road. A side note on that one: We received half a ton of paper towels, which is awesome. Throw in some tissues, paper plates, and cups and things to keep mom from doing extra chores that she’s too emotionally spent to even think about. Hand soap, dish detergent, laundry detergent—all in a nice care package on the porch will make a sad mom’s day like you can’t even imagine.

The gift of a housekeeper or yard work will be loved like nobody’s business.

Know that mom is so tired. Trying to be both parents and wage earners and pretty much everything to everyone all of a sudden is exhausting. These thoughtful gestures can mean so much.

Write a heartfelt letter several weeks or months post trauma.

Tell the family that they are not yesterday’s news, and that though it seems life goes on for the rest of the world, the life they are grieving is still important and valued. Just tell them that you are still there—and will be for longer than the funeral and the parade of Facebook praying hand emojis.

Help make all the phone calls that will need to be made.

Help her write thank you notes. Run her errands. Return that thing to TJ Maxx that she forgot with the receipt that’s about to expire. Go with her to the most unpleasant of places (Social Security Office, funeral home) and be her driver and encourager. Be her ears. Be her driver, her friend, and her crutch. Because a new widow has lost not only her way of life, but probably her way.

how to help a widowOne thing that truly stands out in my memory from the first days of our grief and tragedy was when my cousins came into our home and cleaned and arranged and organized to prepare for all the guests that would soon be arriving. Imagine how your house looks each morning as you run the kids out the door to school. Our house looked like that when we left for our Thanksgiving vacation, not knowing what the week would bring, and that was what I was about to return home to in addition to our loss. But the love and care of others changed our first trip back home from chaos and mess, to a place of rest. Y’all, stock the family’s fridge and pantry with all the things that you know she hasn’t had time to think of. Fold the laundry. Make the home a nice place for a new beginning.

A super necessary thing that no one (including me) thought of was office supplies.  Envelopes, stamps, printer paper, pens, paper clips…all the things she will need to notify the masses and respond to the millions and basically start a whole new way of doing everything. Y’all, it’s a real thing, and she won’t think your gift is crazy once she starts checking the mailbox every day.

I could list a full page of all the wonderful things that people have done for us these past months, but, really, it’s about being present, caring, and available. Help the mom with childcare, school transportation, maybe a job search. She won’t know all her needs immediately. But there will be plenty.

Please keep asking because things will pop up, and you can give amazing support just by being there when they do.


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