Social Question

Poser's avatar

What should I offer my neighbor?

Asked by Poser (7789 points ) August 8th, 2011

A neighbor’s husband recently committed suicide. I have never met her or her husband, but as it is a small neighborhood and I live a few houses down, I want to do something for her. I just don’t know what would be appropriate.

She has posted fliers inviting the neighborhood to the funeral on Saturday. I was thinking of writing a note with my phone number and address. Something like “If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call,” but that doesn’t seem adequate, and, coming from a stranger, it’s doubtful that she would take me up on the offer. I don’t want to be intrusive, but I want her to know that her neighbors are a source of comfort and assistance in what must be the worst time of her life.

Any suggestions from the Fluther ‘hood?

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23 Answers

jca's avatar

Make something, like a food item -cookies? Attach a note of condolence with your number.

Blueroses's avatar

Bring something useful. Food is greatly appreciated, especially something that can be frozen and served later or deli trays so visitors can feed themselves without fuss.

Express your condolences and offer something specific like “My family would be glad to take care of your yardwork for the next few weeks.” It’s the little things that really make a difference during a horrible emotional time.

zenvelo's avatar

I’d say trust your first instinct and send that note. And send another in a month; survivors often feel that the world is scared to upset them and leave them cast adrift. The kindest thing may be checking on her every s o often so she does not feel abandoned.

gailcalled's avatar

Drop some food off and wait several weeks. Then ask her “What can I do to help?”

Mow her lawn, take out the trash, go marketing; keep the chitchat to a minimum.

It’s your personal call whether to go to the funeral or not. Nothing is really going to help this woman now.

“Please don’t hesitate to call” is nice but not very helpful. She doesn’t even know you.

My father committed suicide 29 years ago and I remember every day.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Reply to the invitation and offer to help with that one specific thing. If you become friends after that, then fine. But now is not the time for strangers to suddenly show deep concern for a neighbor. That would be rude and disingenuous. Her geographic proximity is no different than it was a week ago. Accepting and replying to an invitation is a good way to begin showing concern on her terms, not yours.

JilltheTooth's avatar

In some cases, don’t ask, just do. Like @Blueroses example of yardwork, just do the yardwork. Shop for staples and take them over. This kind if devastation leaves very little energy for yes/no decision making of lesser things. Be there for her if she wants you, do things behind the scenes that she won’t have to think about.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

You could drop a small potted citrus tree of some sort on her doorstep/porch along with a note introducing yourself and simply conveying your condolences.

marinelife's avatar

Make her a dinner. Attend the funeral (as a mark of respect).

Tell her in person that if there is anything that you can do, you are willing.

Befriend her. Don’t disappear after the funeral.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

No doubt what ^^^ @marinelife ^^^ said.

If you’re in you’re in. Otherwise stay out completely.

Jeruba's avatar

If she posted flyers, an unusual step, she is plainly asking for support from the neighborhood. Go with your impulse to give it, as long as you don’t get drawn in deeper than you want to go.

Great suggestions above. I’d recommend the useful and practical: an all-purpose casserole (there are some great macaroni and cheese recipes here on fluther) and a hand with the yard work or the shopping.

Hibernate's avatar

Or you could go to her house a day or two before and offer to help if you really want to do something for her.

YoBob's avatar

In my part of the world it is traditional to make some sort of easily freezable food item (as she probably has a heck of a lot more to worry about that cooking) and take it over in person, thus giving you the opportunity to say you are sorry for her loss and to let her know you are there if she needs you.

mazingerz88's avatar

Offer her a conversation, one that you will make sure to be a friendly and caring one.

john65pennington's avatar

Go the funeral and introduce yourself. A personal invitation for assistance is much better than the written word.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Depending upon your availability, offer your assistance in menial tasks that are difficult to do when the house becomes a revolving front door for visitors.

There are simple things that can be done. Make sure that she has some type of log for all of the incoming gifts. Pick up some thank-you cards and offer to help write or address them when the time is right. If they have a pet, walk the dog or change the cat litter or clean the cage. If there is to be a funeral and there are out-of-town guests, offer to arrange for accommodations in a local hotel.

More involved offerings: Does she have children? If so, there could be a way to help out with them. When my sister passed away, I took on the responsibility of calling her friends that didn’t live in the area. The thought of her daughters receiving birthday and holiday cards months down the road addressed to their mother and oblivious to the fact was too heart-wrenching. The people I called didn’t know me, but appreciated the notification, even from a stranger.

Down the road: Suicide is often a shock. If this is the case with the neighbor, she is probably going to need some help once the reality sets in and the initial support team starts to dwindle. It took Mom a year before she tackled getting rid of Dad’s clothes in the closet and dresser, and she would have been better off having someone cart the items away instead of doing it herself. The neighbor may need some help when it comes to anything that her spouse used to handle. Let her know your areas of expertise and what you are willing to offer.

A death is always a shock to a loved one. Anything that you are able to offer will be appreciated.

Kardamom's avatar

Even though you don’t know her, go to the funeral anyway. She wouldn’t have invited you folks unless she wanted/needed you all to be there. Be discreet, but go up to her and introduce yourself and give her a card with your name, address and phone number and little note letting her know that she can call you anytime with a little list of suggestions for jobs or tasks that you and the other neighbors can help her with like mowing her lawn, getting her trashcans out, picking up some groceries while you’re at the store, helping her to organize her household or do some cleaning (she will most likely have to go through all of her husband’s things and may not be able to deal with it herself, and would be embarrassed to ask, but offer that idea in a discreet manner) You can say something like you’re really organized and energetic so if you need any help with getting “organized” she should get the picture. Either the day of the funeral or the next day, take a casserole and/or some cookies or a cake to her home. Let her know that if she wants some company either for lunch or coffee or just to go to the store with, you are available. Let her know that there are plenty of “husbands and men” in the neighborhood (that could also mean the women too, but this is more obvious) that can help her out with her car if she needs some help or with moving any heavy objects etc. You could also give her a short list of names, addresses and phone numbers of the 10 closest neighbors (but only the ones that you know might be willing to help her out). Then give her a week and then put another nice card or note in her mailbox and let her know that she can give you a call (people often forget about the bereaved right after the funeral) and let her know that you’d love for her to come to dinner when she’s feeling up for it. Even if you don’t hear back from her right away, or even in a week or a month. Send her another card just letting her know that you’re checking in and want to let her know that you’re still thinking about her and available for anything that she might need. Maybe send some flowers after about a month has passed, even if you gave her flowers in the first place, or better yet, a potted plant. And wait about 3 weeks to bring her another casserole. Just do everything that you can, to not intrude upon her privacy, but still let her know that you are indeed thinking about her and that you are available to assist her if she wants/needs help.

Other ideas for areas where she might need help: cleaning out the garage (especially if her husband had all sorts of tools, projects and other stuff out there) helping her with a garage sale down the line (she probably will need to do it, but that can be especially painful) look up some bereavement counseling in your area and keep them on hand (but don’t give them to her immediately and not until she either asks for them or shows signs of severe bereavement down the line, don’t force this info on her, but have it on hand) watering her yard or doing other heavy yard work like mowing, pruning, weeding, sweeping etc. A lot of times, the husband was responsible for those tasks, she may not know what to do or even be up to the task. Does she have any pets? If so, ask if she would like you to walk them or if she needs help cleaning out the litter pan or humping bags of litter or pet food into the house. If you find out that she will have relatives coming into town, ask her if she needs any help getting her guest room or couch set up (let her know that you have extra sheets, blankets and towels) plus extra folding chairs or even a camping cot if she needs them. If she seems to be overwhelmed about keeping track of who helped her with whatever, ask her if she wants you to help her keep a log of who gave what casserole or flowers or whatever and if she needs some help addressing (or purchasing) thank you notes and stamps and taking the stuff to the post office. Maybe you can make up a little list that you will keep (until she needs or asks for your help) of all the people, companies or organizations that need to be informed of her husband’s death. Sometimes bereaved people don’t even think about all of the people they need to contact, like the bank, the car repair place, or any other places of business that the husband used to regularly do business with (magazine subscriptions, the local gym membership etc).

Thanks for being a good person and being willing to help out. There should be more people like you : )

Cruiser's avatar

In a small neighborhood notes won’t carry much water. Do make an effort to go up to her and say I know we have never met, but I am sorry for such a sudden loss and if there is anything I can do to help you as one neighbor to another please do not hesitate to ask. Hand her a some potted African Violets with your number paper clipped to it. Offer a hug if it is deemed appropriate.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

That’s exactly how I met one of my best friends @Cruisersans the violets and hug.

Judi's avatar

I have been where she is. She wants people at the funeral or she wouldn’t have put out the flier. Go ahead and go. Introduce yourself, and let her know you are sorry for her loss. In the next few weeks, stop by and remind her of the meeting, re introduce yourself, and tell her you were just stopping by to see how she is doing. She may invite you in, she may not. The biggest thing is to be available. Don’t give up after the first try. (If she just says, I’m fine” and hides behind the door.)
After the funeral and things start “getting back to normal” for everyone else is when the reality of what has happened hits and she needs a friend more than ever. A new friend could be the very best thing for her.
You are so kind to want to help her in this really tough time.

mrrich724's avatar

Your note with your contact info is a good idea. Also, in a small neighborhood, it’s not atypical for someone to make a month long calendar, and have everyone in the hood sign up for a day. On that day, they make a dinner and bring it to that person/family.

This will allow that person to not have to worry about dinners for a while, the expense associated with dinner, when income may now be jeopardized, and it creates a system where this person will meet lots of supportive people and be “checked on” at least once a day…

Some may just drop off the food and leave immediately, but at least your neighbors will be putting themselves there once daily to give her the opportunity to reach out more easily.

jca's avatar

Please feel free to post an update, letting us know what you did and how it was received.

JCA
The Update Lady

desiree333's avatar

I would probably bring some comfort food such as cookies or homemade macaroni and cheese. Introduce yourself, offer your condolences. Now that you are no longer a stranger, it’s an appropriate time to offer your ears and leave your number if she wants to talk.

Poser's avatar

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I’m going to go to the funeral and try to introduce myself and offer my condolences. I’ll let everyone know how it goes.

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