A friend of mine just suffered a loss in her family. The relative was ill in the hospital for several days, but could still receive visitors. My friend’s family was touched by the number of people who came to visit, but some guests were more welcome than others.
One thing that rubbed the family the wrong way was when visitors would overstay their welcome, or ask lots of questions. In her situation, the family was very tired and drained of energy, and keeping company was exhausting. They too were trying to grasp the situation and understand the health issues, so being constantly asked about how this had happened, or what the doctors were saying, was emotional and frustrating. It got to the point where they had to request some privacy at the hospital.
Some visitors, however, made more thoughtful gestures. It was always appreciated when a visitor would offer to give a family member a break and stay with the patient. This allowed the family to get some fresh air, grab a bite to eat, make phone calls, etc. Bringing food was also nice. When you’re confined to a hospital room with a loved one, it’s hard to take care of the most basic things because you don’t want to leave their side. Having the time to do that, or to have food, drinks, newspapers, or even toiletries readily available makes a big difference.
Illness and death are awful situations, and it’s hard to blame someone for not knowing how to act. The best advice is to not be overbearing, to respect the family’s situation, and to be a help, not a hindrance.