How to help a friend when they're grieving or ill

If you say, "Please let me know how I can help," that person probably won't. So if you really want to help, don't wait for a request.

According to the experts at the Care Communities, a nonprofit that arranges for volunteer care teams for people who are living with or are newly diagnosed with cancer, HIV and other serious illnesses, being there for someone is really the best medicine.

"The folks we work with who have serious illness most benefit from actual person to person contact, companionship," says Jim Anderson, program director. "These home visits are really meaningful, and can include dog walking, house cleaning, cooking and laundry. But what they most benefit from is the human contact, that time and effort another individual can provide in person."

Remember that you have to be careful with in-person visits; too many and they can be overwhelming or exhausting for someone already going through a lot. How close you are with that person will determine how much contact you should have with them. But if you're not very close and you still want to sent them some support, here's a list of resources and ideas for sending them a lift when they need it most.

ENROLL FRIENDS + FAMILY

Set up a page in CaringBridge. Everyone wants to know how your friend is doing, but responding to everyone's inquiries can be a burden on your friend. The site allows you to set up a page for your friend and then invite only the people whom you and your friend think want to be kept in the loop. Then your friend can log in, write an update on how they're doing, and it's sent to everyone you've invited. It also allows people to comment and send encouraging words and even contribute to a fundraiser for them.

Set up a page in Rallyhood. This Austin-born company takes CaringBridge a step further by offering tools that help you organize support for your friend. You can create a schedule of who's driving your friend to her doctor's appointments or who's bringing a meal, assign tasks and even raise money for your friend.

ARRANGE FOR MEALS

Have groceries delivered using Instacart. The service allows you to sign up for an account and connect it to a grocery store near your friend's house. You can choose from just about anything the store carries for prices comparable to what they normally are in the store then have it all delivered within about an hour. The delivery fee is based on when you want your items delivered and can be about 10% of your order, but friends who've used it tell me it's super reliable and the fees are worth it.

Have ingredients delivered and meals cooked in your friend's home with Dinner Elf. You order from a selection of meals and choose either "family" size or "two-person" size and the price includes shopping, all groceries, cooking and - get this - clean up! A meal of pesto chicken breasts with a side of your choice can be about $45. They offer gift option and even a group meal coordination page. You just start a page for them, share it with friends and family and ask them to contribute money, then your friend chooses their dinners, the "elf" comes over and cooks them and leaves your friend with a full fridge. We're loving the concept of this Austin-born company.

ARRANGE FOR SUPPORTING SERVICES

Arrange for someone to give them an in-home massage. Massage therapists can be trained in specialties like oncology massage, geriatric massage and palliative massage. While you can find a number of in-home massage therapists via Yelp, I suggest you start by browsing the lists of Austin therapists who participate in the Oncology Massage Alliance. This is the organization of volunteer, trained massage therapists who provide free massage to cancer patients while they're in infusion rooms and before radiation treatments. Give any one of these wonderful people a call and I'm sure they'll be able to help you arrange for an in-home massage for your friend in need.

Arrange to have their house cleaned. Again, there are a number of house-cleaning services out there, but you might be able to arrange for a free house-cleaning service with Cleaning for a Reason. This Texas-born nonprofit offers free house-cleaning services to women undergoing treatment for any kind of cancer, just about anywhere in the United States. It recruits generous local cleaning companies that donate their time to help these women focus on their health and give them one less thing to worry about. You'll need to apply so that Cleaning for a Reason can determine if it can accommodate the request.

Don't forget: Everyone sends help in the beginning. You'll be an angel to them for sending support weeks and even months after the news or event.

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