Okay, let’s get this cleared up. Leave the dang chili at home. For the love of God the person you want to help does not need another pot of fresh or frozen chili, even if your recipe won at the county fair last year or Martha Stewart is your aunt and this is her secret recipe. NO MORE CHILI. How do I know that? ….well because my son passed away in 2016, my father in law in 2014 and we got one too many pots of chili dropped off. So yes I consider myself well versed in how to help others during difficult times.  I couldn’t look or eat chili for at least 2 years after our son’s death. It reminded me of that horrible time. Okay so now you are wondering if not chili then what?

First off their is no right or wrong. What works really great for one family might not for another. But I have collected what I have found helpful and put it here in this post so that you have some solid ideas at your fingertips. Remember the majority of the time just showing up to say you care means more than the actual item. I also wrote a full chapter of this in my book, Bring The Joy, linked here.

When journeying through grief, always forget the script and lead from the heart. As a person who experienced profound, earth-shattering loss, I was amazed at who showed up and continues to show up this day. Grief and Loss are never done.  Some days it was perfect strangers with the most thoughtful, loving delicious meals that just wanted to help. And help they did. You can’t fault someone for following a nudge or trying to help. Grief is a tricky thing and so I encourage you to always extend grace. Remember there is not a one sized fits all approach on this tricky grief journey.  Just remember questions such as: how are you doing? Are you okay? are horrible questions to ask when someone just buried a loved one. Put yourself in their shoes. A simple statement like I am sorry for your loss, this sucks. Learn to live in the silence and just let them know you are there.

We have practical tools but don’t ever wait for them to reach out to you. Often in times grief, loss, trauma and heartache making one more decision is unbearable. Be specific with how you can help. For example, I will drop off a meal Thursday at 5 pm, does that work? Do you have any allergies?


  • Organize a meal train – we found every other day worked best as sometimes you are not always hungry.
  • Fresh salads – make sure to put the dressing on the side.
  • Green juices or frozen smoothie packs if you are local to YYC then check out Raw by Robyn.
  • Handwritten note & never expect a thank you. Likely the person’s brain is so foggy they will forget.
  • A new cozy sweater or zip-up for lounging at home or in the hospital.
  • Skip the dishes gift cards for the days when they don’t feel like reheating yet another frozen casserole.
  • A short visit is the best visit unless they ask you to stay.
  • Ditch the circle fruit or veggies platter, take the time to cut up veggies and fresh fruit, easy snacks for when they are ready. Bring a homemade dip and ensure it is in containers you don’t need back.
  • Organizing child care or cleaners for the house or help with yard care.
  • Book a mobile massage – anything self-care was one of my favourite things (a few of the gift certificates I got when Lewiston was sick, I used several months later after he passed and I was beyond grateful for them).
  • Put together a basket of your fav products – anything from chocolate to lotions, a facemask, or magazine/book.
  • Bottle of wine – yes I said it. 
  • Drop off their fav coffee or tea with a note just letting them know that you are thinking of them – it can even be written on the cup it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Christmas Ornament in honour of their loved one.
  • New fresh bedding.
  • Check-in several months later as they navigate their new normal without their person – I had friends follow up with me monthly which meant the world to me. A simple text saying I am just checking in and thinking of you, goes a long way.


  1. A snack basket, easy to eat, quick snack think like packing for a road trip.
  2. Fresh fruit and veggies cut up in a container that you don’t need back – ditch the store-bought fruit tray.
  3. A warm cozy sweatshirt, a zip-up hoodie or a wrap.
  4. A self-care basket.
  5. New Slippers or cozy socks.


In the months after death, pick up the phone and call. Send a text letting them know you are thinking of them. The simplest of things can be the impactful.

Don’t wait for permission, just show up and do it. I always go back to treat others how you want to be treated as you walk through that situation.