Helping your friend, partner or loved one through a loss is challenging in and of itself. However, helping a long-distance loved one through a loss can be even more tricky. Here are a few ways to figure out how to support a grieving long-distance partner or friend.
Send Them a Gift
There is something so special about receiving a physical gift in the mail. In the age of digital gift cards, Venmo and DoorDash, there are countless “easy” ways to send a gift immediately with a few clicks. But the sensory experience of opening your front door and seeing a box on your doorstep, finding scissors to open said box, and then unwrapping the beautiful items inside is an entirely different gift.
If you have someone you care about who lives far away and recently walked through loss, sending them a remembrance gift is such a thoughtful way to show you care and are thinking about them. Laurelbox offers a variety of remembrance gifts for those grieving. Speaking from experience, every time I have had the pleasure of opening a Laurelbox someone sent me, I felt loved and seen. Whether you choose a curated Laurelbox or pick out each item, the recipient will be encouraged. A few of my favorite things (please start humming “These are a few of my favorite things…” for all you Sound of Music lovers) are the gorgeous feather wind chimes (mine hang right by the front door), any of the Christmas ornaments since holidays are especially tough, and the Shining Bright birthday candle.
As I mentioned, “easy” gifts are just a click away and a good alternative. Your friend will appreciate a gift card to their favorite restaurant or coffee shop. Make it more personal by acknowledging the loss and your desire to be there for them virtually in the “notes” section of the gift card or via text. Something as simple as “I miss you and want to make sure you know I’m thinking about you during this difficult time. Drown your sorrows in chips and guacamole and know I wish I was there to sit with you over margaritas and talk about (their loved one’s name.)” Another option is to give them something that helps with a hobby of theirs. Do they love to read? Uncommon Goods has some fun treats for the bibliophile in your life. A passion for gardening? Here’s a roundup of some great gifts for gardeners that could be shipped directly to your friend.
Laurelboxes bring joy to any recipient who opens one. Here is a box I received from Laulelbox co-founder Johanna and her family on the 5th anniversary of losing our son Cooper.
Consider Their Love Language
Think about your loved one you want to encourage and support long-distance. Do you know their love language? If not, you can read up on the five love languages and determine which category they fall into (or ask them!) Show them love in the way they like best. Quality time? Plan an extended FaceTime session when you both have snacks and your favorite drink close by and it will almost be like you are hanging out in person. There are also streaming platforms that allow Group Watch sessions so you can even watch your favorite show “together.” Have a friend who falls under the “words of affirmation” umbrella? Write a snail mail card full of reasons why you love them and want to support them during this time. As someone who feels loved by encouraging words, I bet they’ll keep that card for years to come!
We’ve already given ideas for someone who appreciates gifts. For an “acts of service” friend, consider going to see them (more on that below) or put together a picture book of photographs they’d love that also include the loved one they are grieving. A lasting memento of your thoughtfulness! For that loved one who feels appreciated by physical touch, if you can’t go in person to comfort them, send something physical that they can hold on to. Warmies is a brand that sells wellness items (in addition to adorable stuffed animals that my children love!) that are lavender scented and can be heated up in the microwave. Some soft booties and a neck wrap might be the next best thing to a warm hug for your friend! Just remember, don’t try and use your love language on them. Discover how they feel loved and be creative!
Consider putting together a photo book for your long distance friend. They’ll appreciate the time and effort you spent on it!
Communication is Critical
Grief is a hard beast to tame. Don’t be offended if they don’t want to talk right away. They might just be exhausted from managing “the business” of death and even responding to texts can feel draining.
After my father unexpectedly died two years ago, I remember it took me weeks to respond to kind messages friends and family had sent. Give them space and time to grieve and process the loss. Let them know you are there to talk when they are ready. Say something like “I can’t imagine what you are going through. I’m so sorry I can’t be there in person. Please know that whenever you are ready, I’m here via text, FaceTime, phone or even carrier pigeon!” You can obviously skip the carrier pigeon part if needed! ;) A wise friend once shared that adding the word “today” can be a great way to be sensitive to the ebb and flow of emotions after a loss. “How are you doing today?” can feel less invasive as opposed to a general “How are you doing?” Don’t make them talk about it before they are ready (within reason.)
Go See Them
If they are ready for visitors, and would appreciate the company, consider jumping in the car or hopping on a plane to go visit. Trust me, they’ll feel overwhelmed with love. They might need help around their house or with funeral arrangements. Support of a loved one can be very needed and they might not even realize how much they could use the additional help.
We lost our second son Cooper unexpectedly in the delivery room in March of 2016. We miscarried another son just eight months later. A week after we lost the baby at 11 weeks, my cousin Stephanie cashed in her Southwest points and flew halfway across the country to support me. She cooked, baked, played with our then-2-year-old and took our minds off the losses if only for a few days. I’ll never forget that she took the time to leave her husband and young kids to come and cheer us up.
Lanna Britt was a national news producer in Washington DC for nearly a decade covering politics, breaking news and current events. She now lives with her husband and three children in Richmond VA. She has two sweet babies she’ll meet again in heaven.