1. Remember this is a sensitive time for all family members. Each family member has a different relationship with the person who passed away. Just because one person is more vocal with his or her emotions doesn’t mean that the silent one doesn’t have the same or even more intense emotions.
2. Ask your friend what he or she needs and list specific items that they might want or need. Don’t wait for your friend to ask. They don’t have any energy; they’re in a daze; and the last thing they want to do is summon up the effort to make a phone call. Don’t know what kind of food to bring? Ask your friend his or her favorite food or what would taste good. Ask your friend what he or she hasn’t had in a while. Ideas for items to bring (food, coffee, paper products <– that last one is gold.)
3. Call your friend, send a text, write a private Facebook message. Whichever means you choose, just make sure your friend knows that you are thinking about them or praying for them. If they post something on Facebook, it’s okay to click the “Like” button, as it’s more of an acknowledgment of the post.
4. Extend grace more than necessary. Your friend may snap or express frustration. It’s nothing personal, and it’s most likely not geared toward you. It’s not ideal, but neither is your friend’s situation.
5. Send a stand or bouquet of flowers with a note. These are beautiful, and the family wants to tangibly see love and support from friends and people in their community.
6. Go by and visit your friend. Don’t just send them a gift, go by and see your friend. Carry some food and go talk to them. They might could use some company, especially if they have a small family.
7. Run some errands for your friend. If they need some groceries, sundries, or if they need to pick up carry out or whatever, offer to do it for them.
8. Get a feel for how the emotions are before sparking conversation. Some people want to talk about their loved one, and other people just want to be silent. Some people want to do both.
9. Be creative with your comments or questions. When the moment seems right to ask your friend about their loved one, ask them about their favorite memory instead of asking “how are you doing.” If you want to ask the latter, just be ready for a burst of tears or anger or a range of emotions.
10. Familiarize yourself with the stages of grief, and realize that their order is cyclical, not linear. Just because someone has moved passed the shock or denial stages doesn’t mean that he or she won’t return to them. Let your friend grieve in a way that’s healthy for him or her, and be patient. You might run into your friend a month from the tragedy and your friend is back in the denial stage. That’s okay. The best thing to do is validate your friend and empathize with him or her.
These are some suggestions. If you’re still lost for knowing what to do, remember that your friend just wants to know that you care about him or her. This isn’t a time for some abstract form of love, because now their loved one is a memory. Now is a time for concrete, tangible evidence of care and support.