The first time you meet a friend who has recently lost a spouse or other family member, you find it very difficult to know what to say. Remember that your friend probably feels similarly out of their depth while carrying a heavy load of grief. Take the initiative and reach out first.
Start with saying that you are sorry about their loss of a loved one – and say their name.
Relate a happy memory of the person who has recently died. Sharing these stories helps the grieving move through their struggle to cope with their new life. Don’t deny the past – it is part of what makes us who we are and our shared history.
Focus on asking how the survivor is coping. Don’t just say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.” Give some examples of things you would be prepared to do: Can I take you to the store or out to lunch? Can I do your ironing? Would you like me to mow your yard? “Think about it and let me know”. Then follow up later by phone to repeat the offer.
If words fail you, a hug can say so much! Those who are grieving are also missing physical contact.