The world is hard, isn't it? Between Nepal and Baltimore, we all have quite a bit to grieve. Add to the mix our own personal tragedies and hurts, and the burden becomes almost too much to bear.
A few years ago, I wrote about grief, about living with it after my grandmother's death. I wrote about friends of ours who showed up in all kinds of loving ways: with groceries and cards and flowers and books. I'll never forget it. Those small acts of kindness are reminders it doesn't take much to show we care. And in the past week, I've had a chance to exercise those muscles, to show up for people who maybe weren't even expecting me to.
Unfortunately -- and perhaps this is a consequence of being raised in the South -- I think we can often feel pressured to not just show up for those we love, but to show up in the right ways. Too often, I think we let that pressure prevent us from being present at all. We never mail the card because we don't know what to say; we don't take dinner, because we're not sure what to cook.
Here, then, is my rule for grieving alongside someone: Just do it. In whatever ways you know how, no matter how awkward it might seem. And at 29, I have finally discovered the best ways for me to show I care, and I figured maybe you, too, struggle with showing up. Maybe you're not sure where to start.
Here, then, is what works for me:
If someone I love is grieving or celebrating, and they live within an hour's radius, I take them dinner. I don't send a text asking to cook dinner; I just say I am bringing it. Most people won't accept if you ask, so I just tell them I'm dropping it off.
I rarely cook dinner myself. Let's not complicate things. Instead, I go to Publix. I grab one of their cute reusable grocery bags and add a rotisserie chicken, already done. I buy a hot-and-ready side, most frequently macaroni and cheese, because macaroni and cheese equals comfort. I grab a bagged salad mix, one that comes with its own dressing, plus a bottle of Simply Lemonade, which is my favorite. I add a magazine or a cheap movie and a dessert; a small bouquet of flowers rests on top.
The beauty of this method is two-fold: It's simple, requiring very little preparation, and it requests nothing back. No one needs to return your dishes, because you didn't use any. You don't need the grocery bag back because it cost 99 cents and now belongs to someone else. The magazine and the flowers will offer distraction or happiness, maybe both. It took 10 minutes to compile.
Sometimes, I deliver the food and visit. Mostly, I just drop it off. One bag. That's it.
Many years ago, my friend Kari shared on her blog a phrase she'd picked up from the Quakers: "I'm holding you in the light." Ever since, those are the words I've penned in sympathy and encouragement cards over and over again, almost universally, no matter the circumstance. I can think of nothing more comforting.
That little bag of food -- for loved ones near -- and a text or phone call or card -- for loved ones far -- are the ways I hold the people I love near the light. It's how I remind them they're cared for and remembered, even in moments of darkness.
I never want to let the fear of being perfect prevent me from being present. Grief is hard enough without bringing our own insecurities and hang-ups into the mix.
Publix rotisserie chicken is what I have to give, and you know what? I think it's enough.