top of page
  • Writer's pictureShelbi Bailey

The 5 Languages of Gift Giving for friends experiencing grief

Have you heard of the book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to a Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman? My first year of marriage was hell for me. My husband has no idea what I’m talking about when I say this, but believe me, it was the WORST. I was convinced that my husband didn’t love me. I cried every day and I felt so inadequate.

Some of this was me processing traumas from my childhood. Although, most of it was not understanding that the ways that my husband shows love are different from what I had known growing up. One day after a particularly bad panic attack, I yelled, “I just need you to hold me and tell me you love me!”

You see, my love languages are Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation. The exact opposite of my “Acts of Service and Gifts” husband. I felt like a failure because I wasn’t in tune with his needs and he wasn’t in tune with mine. Once I was brave enough to voice my needs, our marriage changed completely.

So, how does this apply to grief and loss? Since I lost my son I have noticed over and over that when someone is grieving a tragedy others want to help, but they have no idea how. Often the person grieving is not in a place to say their needs. When I lost Hank I had no idea what I wanted. Somehow my friends were in tune with my needs to be exactly what I needed. I want to help you help others in a way that is productive so I’ve created a list of gifts based on the 5 love languages.

Your ability to help might change based on your relationship with the person grieving. So, I’ve broken each section down based on the love language and your relationship. Words of Affirmation

Family Call or Text them  Send frequent texts asking how they are doing and be willing to accept and listen to their answer. They might be experiencing feelings you could never understand. Don’t judge them for their feelings. Just let them vent and be understanding of the fact that you can’t fix them or the situation. Most importantly, let them know that they are loved.

Friends Be Patient with them. Listen. When I lost Hank I had to wait 6 months to get his autopsy back. In the meantime I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to have more kids. I was a wreck not only from his death, but also from the death of the future children I felt I was losing. This was all I could think about so it was all I could talk about. I am so grateful for friends that let me vent. I said the same things over and over again, but they were so patient and understanding. This helped my healing even better than the therapist I saw. Heart attack their door After Hank died we were so confused about how we would go about the next few days. We drove the almost 3 hour drive home in a blur of tears set to a soundtrack of extremely sad music in the background.

I was swollen from giving birth. I had to stop halfway to pump to ease the pain because I still had milk even if no baby was there. I had appointments to set, insurance plans to cancel and a funeral to plan and all I could think was, “Is there anything worse in the world? Why him?” I was so heartbroken.

Then I got home and saw my friends from my church had “heart attacked our door”. On little red hearts they wrote of their love for us and for our Hank. Seriously, just writing about this has me in tears. It was such a sweet and simple thing, but it felt like a tender mercy from God reminding me that he still loved me. In that moment and many others I felt that I was surrounded by angels on Earth. Acquaintances Comment on their posts, send them a card, or email them Were you touched by their story, but you haven’t spoken in years? Comment on their facebook post! Send them a message or a card. These things might seem so trivial, but to someone that needs that affirmation, they mean so so much.

A few months after Hank died we received a flood of letters from lawyers all over the state. The Wyoming Bar Association had written of Hank’s passing in a newsletter and all of the lawyers in the state had written sending us condolences. Andy wasn’t even a lawyer yet! We were so touched that this community had already accepted him as one of their own. They cared about him and our pain. We didn’t know them and it was so simple, but it meant so much.

My heart! Even seeing this now fills my soul!

Quality Time Family Visit them OK, maybe this is obvious, but taking the time to visit someone that values quality time will mean a lot. Perhaps they don’t want to talk about the loss. You could bring a video game or movie. You could bring a dinner. They want to feel that they are still deserving of your time and attention. Friends and Acquaintances Invite them to everything This might seem off for people that don’t understand this love language. Before I lost someone I thought that people want to grieve at home alone, but that’s not always the case. Even if they continue to say no, it will mean a lot that you try. Plan park dates with your children. Maybe a game of pick up basketball. A girls night is definitely healing. Just knowing that they are still considered for these things is helpful.

Even if you don’t know each other well, this could be the balm they need. Many of my best friends were only acquaintances before my loss. Going to play dates with them solidified life long relationships when I needed friends most.

My family helped a lot with my daughter after our loss. I was too overwhelmed by everything, so it was good to be around other people and have help.

Gifts Family Jewelry

After I lost Hank, a few family members gave me jewelry with his name on it. Those necklaces and rings are so special to me. They made me feel that I could keep him with me always.

Friends Their Favorite Candy, Ice Cream, Protein Shake

What might seem simple to you could be huge for them. Just knowing you remembered and know them that well means much more than the cost of a gift.

A Picture/Painting Have you seen those faceless watercolor paintings that are so popular? I had a few friends send me those of either christ holding an infant or a mother and her infant and it made my heart soar. Those paintings are so special to me. It was special to be reminded that Hank might be with Christ, but he is happy and he will be mine forever. Such a sweet and thoughtful gift.

Acquaintances Flowers I vividly remember a woman from my church stopping by my house one afternoon. It was cold and she held a gorgeous little flower in a pretty vase. “It’s not much. It’s probably stupid. It can never amount to what you’ve lost, but I wanted to bring you something.” I think of those flowers all of the time. I couldn’t tell you what they look like, but I was so touched that she would be so thoughtful.

All of the flowers I received on my son's first birthday. It distracted me so much from how hurt I was.

Physical Touch

Family and Friends

Let them cry on your shoulder My parents are a very physically affectionate family. When Hank died my mom’s best friend traveled 14 hours from Missouri to Wyoming so that they could be there physically to help her. They held her as she cried. They were exactly what she needed.

Acquaintances Hug Them Sometimes people need a hug. As I stated before, my mom is very physically affectionate. When she is upset, a hug is the most helpful thing. The physical touch is soothing and keeps them grounded when everything around them is falling apart.

Acts of Service Family Create a Scrapbook with pictures of the gifts and Cards they received One of my friends had this done when they were going through a loss audit meant so much for her. I always thought that is an underrated gift. This is something that they don’t have the mind to do in the moment, but it will mean the world to them later. 

Friends Clean their home/Mow their lawn/Help them with repairs After a close friend found out some devastating news their friends came together to remodel a bathroom for them. They offered their time and labors to be there for a friend in the way that he might not have felt comfortable asking for. When I lost Hank I didn’t feel comfortable asking for this help, but it would have meant a lot. Help them pack up things they won’t need My sister in law offered to help me pack Henry’s clothes. At the time she asked I wasn’t ready, but a few months later when I was ready I asked my mom and this meant so much to me. I couldn’t bare to even look in the room where his belongings were so it was really helpful.

Acquaintances Bring over Dinner The old casserole at funeral is such a cliche, but it really is helpful. When I couldn’t hardly function I had meals to feed my family. Simple, but so helpful!

You might feel helpless when tragedy strikes someone you love, but you aren’t! You have the ability to be their angel on Earth. Think of your loved one and love them through this!

These are my “gifts”, but I’d love to hear your ideas. Leave them in the comments below.

1 view0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page