Tuesday, January 20, 2009

WFMW: Planning Meals for Grieving Families

My Works For Me Wednesday Idea involves planning meals for friends/families who are going through grief or a family crisis. It works equally well for good news events such as a family welcoming a new baby.

In the last two years, I've become a kinda "Family Crisis Coordinator" for our school. We've had a number of families who have experienced grief through the loss of a child or one of the parents.

Because I love to organize, I've volunteered to coordinate meals for these families.

In the last few months, I've also taken on this job at our preschool. too.

It is a job that I pray is never needed, but it is such a blessing to be able to do this small thing for those families. When one of my best friends suffered a recent loss, I was glad that there was something meaningful that I could do to help.

Walking through grief with a number of friends has taught me a valuable lesson. Often people want to do something to help, but don't want to say or do the wrong thing or just don't know what to do. Making a meal for a family is a simple but loving gesture that allows them to "help out" without being a burden.

I've come up with a Meal Planning Protocol for Grieving Families. First, I give the grieving family a week after the loss. Meals flow into homes at these times. They will be so busy with the details of the funeral and the raw grief that accepting meals every few days would be overwhelming. In fact, they will have so many leftovers and jello salads they will be swimming in food. A balanced, warm meal will be a welcomed treat at the end of this time.

Step One: Ask the Family or a Loved One close to them if they would be open to having meals delivered 3 to 4 times a week to their home for the next few weeks. We normally do either Sunday/Tuesday/ Thursday or Monday/Wednesday/Friday assuming that most meals will provide leftovers.

Step Two: Confirm that there are no allergies or diet restrictions. Ask how the family would like delivery done either hot and ready to eat or cold for reheating (or if they are flexible).

Step Three: Send out an e-mail to friends, co-workers, church members, school classmates, etc. asking them to provide one meal over the course of the next month to six weeks.

In this email I give suggestions, include a calendar with dates I've planned, ask them for the dates that work/don't work and what meal they would like to bring. I also say that if they would prefer, they can volunteer to give a gift certificate for a pizza/takeout that will fill one of the dates.

Step Four: Create a Calendar from the volunteers that includes the dates, meal and person's contact information. Make sure each volunteer gets a copy and the family receiving the meals has one to reference as well.

I like to make sure the family is not getting two chicken dishes in row, etc so I try to set the calendar in such a way that there will be a variety.

Step Five: Have the first person delivering bring freezer Ziploc bags or storage containers for leftovers. ( This was a great suggestion from a grieving friend)

Step Six: If the giver is willing, ask them to share the recipe for the food they are delivering for the family. This a great gift for the family. Recommend that they use disposable dishes so that the family doesn't need to worry about return, cleaning, etc.

Step Seven: Be willing to step in at the last minute with a meal in case one of the planned meals falls through due to illness, etc. Often I will not put my name on the list of people figuring that I will bring a meal at the last minute. I always have Frozen Ham and Cheese Sandwiches ready for such an occasion.

Coordinating and planning meals for families in crisis has been a big blessing in my life. It has allowed me to share hope and love with families hurting in a practical way with a warm meal. I've also been able to show my children that grief, while a long and weary road, is one that is best shared with others.

If you would like a copy of the email I send out looking for people to participate let me know and I will email it to you.

For More Works For Me Wednesday Ideas go to Shannon's http://http//rocksinmydryer.typepad.com/shannon/

Matthew 5:4 (New International Version)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted


Faith said...

What a wonderful thing to do for these families!

Candace said...

That is such a blessing!

The Frugal Angel-Guided Psychic said...

Wonderful! I'd love to have type of coordination too. I usually make a simple meal like soup, crackers and applesauce a few weeks after a death or illness. This sounds so much better.

Monkey Momma said...

www.carecalendar.org is something our Sunday School class uses. It's really wonderful and has made the organizing a LOT easier.

Storm said...

Bless you for being a blessing to others.

Jenn said...

I loved reading your article; such great ideas! If you don't mind, I would appreciate the letter you send out asking people to help. I'm in charge of organizing delivery of meals for a coworker about to have a baby (their first child). Please email it to: jwathen@thejns.org as I'm not on here blogging. I found your article through a Google search, looking for ideas. Many thanks to you! Jennifer Wathen

Anonymous said...

Just found your "protocol" and think it is great. My community uses mealTrain.com which we have found to make the organization much easier.

Brandy said...

Would you mind sending me the email you send out to potential volunteers? carlson.brandy@gmail.com

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to share another resource that can be helpful during these times. www.takethemameal.com is an online tool that I've used for similar situations.