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"Let me know if I can do anything"

(40 Posts)
dirtyprettything Mon 11-Apr-16 12:55:08

My brother died very suddenly a few weeks ago and it's been a dreadful, awful time.

People have mostly been very kind and (I know) at a loss for what they can do.

I know I am being a right old cow but the phrase "Let me know if I can do anything" is seriously starting to grate on me.

it feels like the onus is on me to pick up the phone and start ordering people around or to even know what I want and also like it's a bit of a get out of jail free card - they've said their bit and off they go.

Now obviously I am being horrible and I probably have used the phrase myself in the past but I may just go for the next poor sap who says it to me.

MargaretHale Mon 11-Apr-16 13:00:36

I'm sorry for your loss.

MissusBea Mon 11-Apr-16 13:01:20

I am so very sorry for your loss flowers. I am in a similar situation with a friend I really care about who recently lost her husband. And I am afraid said those exact words Is there one person close enough to you who could actually co-ordinate help, so you tell them what needs doing and they call people? Because some of them probably really do want to help but don't want to intrude.

MyKingdomForBrie Mon 11-Apr-16 13:08:52

It's so difficult to know what to say or do. The best thing we found was people just bringing meals round for us but only really those closest to you can do things like that. I've been in both positions and I've still said that phrase even though I know they won't ask anything of me - I would genuinely do anything to help but it's knowing what to do. I think people just mean 'I'm here for you and I wish I could help'

Sorry for your loss flowers

Costacoffeeplease Mon 11-Apr-16 13:14:19

A Friend of mine lost her husband very suddenly and traumatically a few weeks ago - and I said the exact same words because I don't know what else to say. She has siblings, grown children and their partners, all living nearby, and I don't want to intrude on their grief or be some sort of drama llama looking for gossip so have given them space - but if she wanted to pick up the phone for a chat with someone outside the family, or some more practical help, I wanted her to know that was absolutely fine with me

I'm sorry you find it annoying but it really is coming from a good place

figsandalmonds Mon 11-Apr-16 13:25:15

I am so sorry about your brother.

Yes, people say this a lot. It was pretty constant after we lost our daughter. Some people were even very specific about what they could offer (shopping, cleaning, etc.). We needed it but I wasn't able to ask (because I was catatonic with grief and because I didn't feel comfortable asking). Some people just did stuff (sent us food for example) without asking, this was great (and I recommend this to anyone reading this thread who wants to do something! - most supermarkets deliver and you can send stuff that can be frozen or kept in a cupboard).

As for people saying annoying stuff... it has been a constant for us. I've not found a good way to deal with it. There are a lot of people I just cut out - because I couldn't handle them. For the lesser stuff... well you have to ignore it and look after yourself. You will constantly be reminded that it comes from a good place and that you have to understand that and know that people mean well blablabla. I don't buy that. I know people mean well but I have my crap to deal with and I needed to protect myself however I could. So if I wasn't able to tell someone their comments were annoying (I could tell my family and close friends) I'd ignore them and try to focus on my feelings. You do not have to use up energy worrying about annoying people meaning well. If they upset you, finding a way for you to deal with that is the priority...

Take care xo

lougle Mon 11-Apr-16 13:27:33

What else can be said? I said it to someone yesterday. I know it's a rubbish gesture, but I can't do anything to make this easier for the person. The only thing I could do is whatever the person wants to be done. But who am I to assume I know what she wants? People don't lose their likes/dislikes or preferences because they're bereaved. It would be patronising to just 'do' things that I thought would help. So that's why I said it.

I'm sorry you're having to cope with bereavement.

Costacoffeeplease Mon 11-Apr-16 14:44:11

My friend owns a restaurant - food is the last thing I'd do for her

sorbetandcream1 Mon 11-Apr-16 19:47:19

I'm so sorry for your loss. I know exactly what you mean. We had a very unexpected loss in our family a while ago...we desperately needed people just to do stuff for us...not to ask bease we were in shock. The people who got this right were not always people who were closest to us. Personally I really appreciated people who just 'took over'. Brought us a meal, took us out even cleaned the house for us. If I were you, when people offer support, suggest something small you'd appreciate. E.g. a catch up over a coffee soon, someone to take your kids out for an hour (if you have children, appropriate etc). See how they respond. Some people almost want permission to help. I broke contact with some people over it all.

gonetoseeamanaboutadog Mon 11-Apr-16 21:29:11

Sorry for your loss flowers

We have had two tragic losses in the last year and heard this phrase countless times. On the one occasion that we desperately, desperately needed childcare - a close family member went from a healthy young mum to life machine being switched off in three dreadful weeks - I could find no one to take care of my month old baby while we were in the hospital. Having heard the phrase so many times, I had assumed that people cared. They didn't. it was very, very difficult to find out that in many cases it really is a meaningless pleasantry.

Rainshowers Mon 11-Apr-16 22:44:02

My dad died in an accident a few months ago and we heard this a lot but I don't think we took up anyone on their offers. The real life savers at the time were those close friends who cooked us meals (and filled the fridge with side dishes), took care of my toddler DD when we were making funeral arrangements and talking to police, drove us around in the first couple of days when we couldn't face being behind the wheel, and made tea and fed people the day of the funeral. Like figsandalmonds said, none of us knew what we needed so couldn't ask but we appreciated the help so much from those who gave it.

dirtyprettything Tue 12-Apr-16 09:25:11

Thank you for the comments

Agree the most helpful things people have done:
Put cottage pies/bolognese etc in the fridge and freezer
delivered home made cakes & biscuits
Invited my kids over for very specific play dates ie "I will collect son 1 at 10 am. He will have lunch and dinner with us. I will deliver him back home at 7pm."

Now don't even get me started on the phrases "Be strong" or "You are a strong woman".

gonetoseeamanaboutadog Tue 12-Apr-16 17:14:58

Oh, one helpful thing that some neighbours did for my father was to stick a date on the food that people gave as soon as it arrived, along with an 'eat by' date. This is hugely important.

YesThisIsMe Tue 12-Apr-16 17:27:53

Nigella Lawson said that an unasked for food shop given without coment was the best thing anyone did for her when she was bereaved.

If someone has children then I agree that very specific childcare offers are best. "I'm going out with my children on Tuesday - would your child like to come with me - I'll collect at X and return at Y". Or a slightly more open "Do you have any appointments (this might cover registering the death, seeing the GP for sedatives or talking to undertakers) in the next week that you can't take DC to? I'll come and look after them then."

AndrewPhillips Wed 13-Apr-16 11:16:32

I can understand your pain. I lost my sister and she knew I could not manage food without her, so she had already hired a cook for me and had done a number of things before she left. To my surprise she also had pre paid her funeral cost at a website and left no burden with me. I am now in despair of the things undone to her by me.

doubleginplease Thu 02-Jun-16 20:44:43

I agree. Just do something. my DF died very recently and I think the best thing for me and my DM was when someone left a bag of food shopping on our doorstep. We weren't remembering to eat so this helped x

GasLightShining Fri 03-Jun-16 22:51:40

Sorry for your loss

I expect a lot of us are guilty of saying this but I mean it when I say it but at the same time I would be worried of being too pushy by just turning up.

alazuli Sat 11-Jun-16 14:43:52

i know exactly what you mean! my mum passed away recently and i found this phrase so redundant especially coming from people you're not that close to who probably wouldn't go out of their way to help you.

it would be better if they asked 'would you like me to cook for you/buy you groceries' etc.

also hated it when friends told me 'you're so brave/strong!'. no, i'm just getting on with things and surviving, just like you'd do if you were in my shoes.

and straight after she died it used to grate when people asked me 'how are you?' in a really expectant way knowing she'd passed because it gave me 2 options - 1) pretend i'm fine when i'm not really 2) start confiding in you about how crappy i am when i don't to talk about it.

i mean my mum's just died how do you think i am??!

PhylumChordata Sat 11-Jun-16 14:48:35

Yes agree totally. I can hardly get my shit together to get up, I can't order everyone around.

Wolfiefan Sat 11-Jun-16 14:52:50

Isn't it that they are expressing a willingness to help. They wouldn't want to turn up with food to find your kids hate it, 17 people have bought the same or the freezer is full. But you might want them to collect the kids from school or just come over for a hug.
I'm so sorry you are finding people unhelpful.

chunkymum1 Sat 11-Jun-16 15:04:41

Sorry for your loss.

I'm afraid I have used that exact phrase before in similar circumstances. Now that you have raised it I can see why it may come across as rather bland and meaningless. However, when I have said it I really did mean that I would be glad to help in any way I could. As someone who has been lucky enough not to lose anyone very close I'm afraid that I was worried about getting in the way/looking like I was trying to take over/causing further upset if I started trying to do anything without being asked. I'd like to think that people who have said it to you really mean it too, so if there is anything that would make things easier for you I'd ask. Having said that, if I'm ever in that situation again I will remember your post and try to be a bit more specific.

annandale Sat 11-Jun-16 15:10:52

I agree that Nigellas piece about grief in Feast is really helpful. I don't blame you for hating to hear this over and over again. I'm useless in these situations but hope that at worst people can throw the food away in the future. I try to think of one specific thing I can do, like arrange to take a child to cricket or something, and just do that. But I know I get it wrong - I went to see someone, got lost and had to ring them for directions - ended up being more of a bother, not less.

Fabellini Sat 11-Jun-16 20:21:07

If one more person tells me how strong I am......I will show them exactly how strong - by punching them full in the face and then having hysterics right in front of them. I don't feel strong, I feel broken.
Just because I keep getting up in the morning, and I'm capable of independent movement, that doesn't mean I'm ok.

eitak22 Sat 11-Jun-16 23:00:12

Agree with all the above plus the 'dont be so hard on yourself'.

I'm not being hard on myself i am trying to get used to my new life without a loved one.

Re: let me know what i can do to help. At first i had no answers as i honestly didn't know what day it was nevermind if i needed help and now 3 months on i could probably do with the help but feel the offer is no longer there as 'im coping', it happened a while ago.

dirtyprettything Thu 16-Jun-16 10:10:56

I'm 3 months down the line & definitely feel I've had my time and am expected to be back to normal now.

People do still tell me to be strong - I like your approach Fabellini!!

I actually had a bit of a breakdown last weekend and have been signed off work. I'm in bed most of the time hiding from the world. I certainly wouldn't feel I could call distant friends at this point and ask them if they could do my shopping or walk my dog.

I know that's how it is, life goes on and people have their own lives. I couldn't face a social event I'd been looking forward to last weekend and told my friends why - only 2 out of 8 have sent me a message saying they are thinking of me.
You certainly find out who your real friends are during the dark times.

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