One of the best lessons I learned as a Hospice Volunteer was to ask open-ended questions. This question “what can I do?” is vague, but it typically does invite a positive response when someone is in a difficult situation. This question is what goes through all of us when someone dies, “I wish there was something I could do” (for the survivor) and there is. I was pleased to discover that my dad surrendered and let us help him when mom died. He asked the question I constantly thought of “what do people do who don’t have family to help them throught this?” he allowed us to help him and we wanted to help. If you know someone who has lost someone, the best thing to do is just say “I am sorry for your loss” that will do it. No one expects you to say anything else. If you want to physically help them in some way, ask if you can go to the store and get them toiletries for the bathroom (or just do it, if you can see they need something), do they need laundry detergent? Do they need milk, maybe you could do a load of laundry for them. Think of everyday things that we take for granted, getting the mail, eating a meal. My dad wanted someone there, but I could tell when he wanted to be alone as well, and that is natural. What you can do is just be there, maybe holding a hand, and maybe just being in the next room silent…offering open ended questions when appropriate.
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