A friend of our family just lost her husband to cancer. She has several adult children who no doubt have been there for her. They helped with all the arrangements of the funeral, helped her sort through all the paper work that needed to be taken care of and kept her busy with family events. However, none of them live close enough to provide daily help. While she doesn’t need big meals brought to her, or help paying bills, she is very lonely. She doesn’t have little children to keep her mind busy, or teenagers to keep out of trouble. Her house has become a quiet, lonely place.

While it is sometimes easy to step up to help a family when they experience a big loss, you may feel like there isn’t much you can do for a single old lady. After all her children are stepping up to take care of the big things, she doesn’t eat much on her own and there is no one there to dirty up the house. The usual meals, cleaning, and helping with child care or errands just don’t fit. I would like to offer a few things you can do.

~ Take time to go have a cup of tea with her. A small conversation may be just what she needs.

~ Invite her to your house for dinner. The hustle and bustle of a family with small children will provide her with some good laughs and entertainment.

~ Have her come once a week to read with small children. The kids will love having a captive audience and she will feel good being needed.

~ Offer to take her shopping. She may just need some good “out of the house” time.

~ Offer to help her find somewhere to volunteer. It may be difficult for her to know where to start. Usually older people are not computer savvy. She may not know where the need is.

If her spouse was in need of a lot of care, the death may have left more than just an empty feeling in the house. She may have neglected friendships in order to give her all to him. Like my friend, she was married to her husband for over 50 years. His death left a huge void in her life. Where she once had a constant companion, she is left alone to continue on. Helping her to fill the void is the greatest gift you can give.

By Susan Kroeker