When my husband died, I had eight children under the age of ten. We were active in the local church at the time and wow how the body of Christ rolled up their sleeves and moved into action! They were overwhelmed for me—unable to imagine how I would do life alone with so many small children. Before the fog had a chance to settle over my life, teams of support were established that would carry me through. I am so thankful to this day that my church had the forethought to establish the different types of support groups. As I look back, I can see how God used each person’s unique gifts and talents to serve in our time of need.
Here are some crucial support systems to consider:
1. Grocery shopping service
Church members and friends signed up to grocery shop for me delivering food to my home—insta-cart before it’s day! This was such a blessing for many reasons one of which is obvious, if I needed one simple item like a carton of eggs, I would have had to take eight small children with me to the grocery store. This service was so helpful! I would make my list, leave it with the organizer at the church, and volunteers shopped for me with joy! I still remember the willing helpers showing up at my door with bags full of groceries—they were thrilled to be of assistance in a small way, many times refusing payment for the food!
For months after my husband died, home-cooked meals were delivered to my house. This was such a unique blessing since even the thought of cooking and meal planning was stressful—it would take months to get back into this routine! One volunteer insisted on bringing a meal once a week for two years! At the time I didn’t feel like I needed it, but as I look back it was such a gift. Through this act of service, a treasured friendship developed.
** As a side note: Don’t be afraid to make your special food requests known. We were vegetarians at the time with dietary restrictions—no meat, dairy or sugar! I was surprised how everyone took the challenge and honored this rigid guideline.**
3. Men’s Task Force
(If there can be only one group…this is it!)
For this group, my church made a special appeal to the men in the church, asking that they serve my family twice a year with assorted needs and repairs around the home. These groups were formed and served in my home on the same Saturday each month from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sometimes it only took a few hours to conquer the list while other times the men went the extra mile staying much longer than planned to complete the job. They were encouraged to coordinate with each other to bring the right tools and even pack their own lunches, knowing it can be awkward for a new widow to prepare a meal for a man. This provided a plan for home care and maintenance for the first year.
**Considerations to add to the list of repairs and maintenance: Lawn care, painting a room, making repairs on appliances or cars, moving furniture, and seasonal help such as putting up outside Christmas lights. And don’t be surprised that if the widow has children that may gravitate to the men following them around the house in order to learn tips and tricks a dad would normally teach kids. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the love of God to the fatherless while while modeling service at its best!**
4. Cleaning Service
Once a month two ladies came to deep clean my home. This gift was very difficult to receive but needed. During the first few months following the death, there is a lot of confusion and extra people in the home. For the widow, this is overwhelming. She might have time to clean a toilet or two, but having the house thoroughly cleaned is such a blessing!
During the first several months there will be many meetings the widow must attend to take care of “after death” business. Many times it will not be easy or appropriate to bring children with her. The people who cared for my children came prepared to entertain with crafts and games to play. The kids looked forward these special times reporting back years later that it was important for them to stay busy and the break from their day-to-day heavy grief scenario was helpful.
6. Support Squad
This was the innermost circle of the inner circle of support surrounding me! My support squad of 3-4 people organized, coordinated and managed all the above groups with sensitivity to my greatest needs. This team acted as an advocate providing care for me during my dark hours. The detailed schedule of who would be at my home and when supplied strength in my weakness. Having this group of trusted friends acting as a mediator and boundary between my family and the public kept me safe with the unavoidable chaos corralled. This gift of protection and care was helpful and often essential.