Supporting Loved Ones from a Distance (Part I)

Editor’s Note: The following is taken from the OSF Home Care Messages of Hope booklet, “When You are Far Away From a Loved One.”

Because of our lifestyles, our work and many other factors, Americans now live hundreds or thousands of miles away from their families. When someone in our family dies, we may not live close enough to support the survivor in person on a daily basis. There are many ways we can help with supporting loved ones using today’s technology and our own creativity.


One of the easiest ways to provide support is via our telephone. We can stay connected by phoning our loved one two to three times a week and can identify through conversation when they are feeling lost, depressed, lonely, etc. For example, if you are calling your parent after the loss of their spouse, coordinate with your other siblings or family members so that someone is calling every day.

Schedule this call on your calendar so you are committed to completing it. Vary the time of day you schedule the call so it is an unexpected pleasure for your loved one. As everyone leads very busy lives, schedule this call during your commute to or from work as to interfere less with your day.

If your loved one has a computer, use the internet and email to keep connected. Send them inspirational or grief support via the internet. Send daily emails about your life and family to give them a feeling of close connection to you even though distance separates you physi­cally.

Keep them connected by sending text messages or electronic pictures of you and your family which they will begin to anticipate. There are wonderful free inspirational videos available on the internet that can be forwarded.

U.S. Mail

The U.S. mail is another great vehicle for providing support. Sending cards, short notes and prayer cards can provide encouragement and support to a grieving loved one. Along with cards and letters, there are many inspirational prayer and reflection books that offer encouragement for each day.

Take the time to create a scrap book of memories about the family member who died. Put in pictures and stories about the person you either heard or were a part of and mail the scrap book to their loved one.

Sharing those memories will help the survivor work through their grief and trigger new memories they can cherish.

About Author: Robert Sawicki, MD

Doctor Robert Sawicki photoDr. Robert Sawicki is the Vice President of Clinical Services for OSF Home Care and Post-Acute Services. He has led efforts to develop and improve care for patients with chronic illnesses and has a special interest in end-of-life care and hospice.

Dr. Sawicki received his medical degree from Rush University in Chicago, Illinois, and completed his residency in family medicine in Rockford. He practiced family medicine in Bloomington, Illinois, for 20 years before moving into leadership roles with OSF Home Care Services.

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Categories: Palliative Care & Hospice

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