Ways to support a family in distress


People / Wednesday, March 6th, 2019

Sometimes life is overwhelming. Unexpected losses, grief, or ongoing pain can set a family reeling. How can extended family and friends offer practical support during times of distress?

I admit up front that these ideas are not mine. They are ways our support network has already blessed our family in the past weeks and months, during our hard season. Many of the items on this list happened several times over.

  1. Give fresh flowers
  2. Show up

Nothing ever beats presence.

  1. Bring a casserole to church
  2. Write an encouraging note
  3. Order dinner delivery to their home
  4. Pray for them publicly and privately
  5. Give health supports: massages, supplements, oils for healing
  6. Help with financial burdens
  7. Make a mini sunshine box

My sister gave me a gift bag with a small item to open each day in my most difficult week… a candle, a snack, something to wear, something to color.

  1. Tuck an anonymous gift card in their mailbox
  2. Ask good questions – How are you holding up?

I’ve been asked this question many times by close friends, and it has become dear to me. It permits struggle, but does not assume or brush off. It requires a real answer, not including I’m fine.

  1. Bake cookies, or share an extra dessert
  2. Babysit
  3. Be willing to talk and cry on the phone late at night when needed
  4. Offer your living room and a listening ear
  5. Give a good book to read

A book given frees the recipient from any pressure to read and respond. But a book loaned is also a treat.

  1. Let them give back to you, or alongside you

Obviously, caution is needed – but if all the giving goes one way, the family can flounder longer. Ask for help when you need it, or prayer for your own needs, or partnership in your service projects. Let them say no if they’re not ready.

  1. Reach out with a text message, and forgive them when they don’t respond to it for a long time
  2. Offer to take their place in a mundane task or a community duty
  3. Share what the Lord is telling you about them

I’ve been blessed many times by friends offering a word from the Lord. It’s a relief to know he’s talking about me, when I can’t always hear him talk to me. Best still is when three different friends share the same word. Then I know it was Him.

  1. Drop an unexpected gift in the mail, on their doorstep, or onto The Underground Mennonite Railroad

Homemade soaps, chocolate, toys for my kids, flower bulbs for spring. Wow.

  1. Give “rejuvenate money” – to be used for personal or family refreshment
  2. Cut a mini evergreen bouquet out of your backyard and say I’m thinking of you
  3. Offer a hug
  4. Meet up in town for lunch or coffee

We are so blessed. There is just nothing else to it.

Jesus, thank you for your people.

What ideas would you add, for the sake of other readers who may use this list as a reference?

10 Replies to “Ways to support a family in distress”

  1. The gift is less important than the heart behind it…. sometimes we are so terrified of doing the wrong thing that we can’t come up with anything that fits us to give. Pray that He will help you to quit worrying about messing up and pray that your offering will show His love….no matter what your gift is. Toilet paper, Kleenex and paper towels are beautiful to someone who is running low on funds or energy or both….

    1. That’s right! When we got our last fostering placement, I had a friend from church who would ask, “Do you need any supplies? I’d like to buy something for your family.” Over the course of the next few months, as she kept asking, she gave massive amounts of diapers, wipes, Kleenex, paper towels, and toilet paper… Truly love in action. 🙂 I was so grateful.

  2. Lovely and helpful.
    I tend to worry about my ‘offering’ being a good fit. So I pray, and whatever idea gets to my heart first- no matter how ordinary, grand, or silly- is what I do/give. That way, I am leaning on what the good Lord already knows about their situation.

  3. Good read!
    I’d say you’ve been blessed!
    People usually do great in deaths and sicknesses, but the “unusual hard” is often missed! I’ve experienced the death of a child, and the unusual! The unusual a very difficult, and lonely journey!

  4. Doing Ding Ding Ditch. You leave a care package on their front step or porch. Ring the doorbell and get away as fast as you can so they don’t know it’s from you.

  5. I had a china-and-goblets table set for fifteen the night my dad died. When we returned from a grief-stricken day-after at Mom’s, my table had shrunk and everything has vanished. I almost didn’t register the change. A dear friend had asked my husband “What would she appreciate? How can we help?” I wouldn’t have known what to tell her, but he did.
    Our landlord’s wife came to take the overwhelming amounts of food and dispersed them between her family and some needy neighbors. She brought a meal back a few weeks later, when I actually wanted it.
    Another friend sewed nursing zippers into my black dress.
    These are all very circumstantial ideas, but I was so blessed by responses to my un-processed needs.

  6. Once a friend did a spring cleaning for me….kitchen cupboards…..ceiling fan. It felt sssoooo good because at the time I had barely enough mental energy for the basics

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