If you haven’t seen the movie ‘We Bought a Zoo’ the 2011 film with Matt Damon I’ll give you a short run down. Damon’s wife passes away and looking for a fresh start he buys a dilapidated zoo and works to reopen it with some quirky staff members. There’s this scene shortly after his wife passes away that it shows him opening the door and thanking the many people who show up all bringing him lasagna. I’m wondering if this was meant to be satirical or if someone in the writers room had actually had experience with this. From my own personal experience it seemed a little close to home. That everyone really does have 1 dish they bring and it’s usually lasagna. Now, I love lasagna and carbs, but there was so much lasagna.
One night we were so excited when someone came with a bowl of cut up fruit and enchiladas. We had been overwhelmed with meals and left overs during the first weeks I had yet to make it to the grocery store, but someone thoughtfully picked us up some breakfast things and my daughters favorite snacks. Another great gift we were given was paper plates, plastic silverware, napkins and toilet paper. When your grieving you usually have several extra people in your house and you will be so thankful to not have to worry about someone cleaning your dishes or putting them away. I know people mean well in cleaning for me but it still stressed me out later trying to look where things got put away.
I have to say the people who just showed up at my house with food, cleaned, took my kid were the best. My therapist has told me several times that the burden lies on the griever with what you want people to do. I had a few people who did not wait for directions they knew my daughter needed to burn off some energy and that we needed a break from the constant needs of a 3 year old.
It’s also important to show up and also ask the griever if you are planning on cleaning. That stack of papers may not look important, but it might be the last thing the deceased was organizing. Seemingly unceremonious things become sacred memories for the survivor. I can’t always explain the logic, I wouldn’t let anyone wash my sports bra I was wearing when I went into labor. It’s finally washed and now folded in with Logan’s box, because to me it’s now too special to bring myself to wear again.
When you initially speak to someone walking a road of grief please don’t emphasize that ‘time will make it better’, ‘that their loved one is in a better place’, or ‘at least you have…’ Not only are these things cliché but they also emphasize that you are separated from this place where your loved one is. That the only place you want to be is with the one you have lost. There is no at least that will change that. Today is not the day of your splendid reunion, it is a time reminding you of your long separation. It is way too much honesty to absorb in these darkest of days. Overall be mindful. I wish I had been brave enough to tell some people just to leave the food at my door. Making small talk with those who I barely knew was at times excruciating. I knew they were probably wanting to get out of the situation as much as I was. If it is at all possible don’t linger. You can even arrange a time to drop it off and text the person.
Please continue to bring comfort food, desert, and wine. And bring it in a disposable container that doesn’t needed to be coordinated to be returned. Remind them that they are loved and that you will walk beside them. Now when I have that cheesy bubbling joy of lasagna I am reminded of all my friends who brought me their signature dishes. The love that they poured out for me when they didn’t know what else to do. I hope I will learn to be able to nurture others the way I have been so lovingly nurtured. I am forever grateful for all the lasagna, but in the future I will be finding a new signature dish to bring when called.