You say you are sorry for their loss.
You don’t suggest a bright side – as in “Well, he had a good innings” or “At least she is out of her suffering now.”
Later on, the bereaved person may suggest such things and you can agree, but that is later, and you take their lead.
You show them support and love and patience and accept their feelings as real, and you remember that:
There is nothing you can do to make it better, and nothing you can do to hurry it along.
Here is an extract from a self-help book I worked on some years ago…
How to help a bereaved person:
· Let them talk about their loved one, if they want to.
· Listen to what they say about how they feel.
· Keep them company. Sit with them quietly, talking if they want to talk, being silent if that is what they want.
· Accept that their feelings are real and valid. What is non-negotiable is to accept as real the feelings of misery expressed by your friend, and to desist from persuading them to see things otherwise.
· Don't say "cheer up" or tell them to "count their blessings." But you could tell them that although it doesn't seem like it now, there will be a time in the future when they won't feel so sad.
· Show them on a daily basis that no matter how they feel, you care about them. Let them rely on your acceptance and your love. Although it may not seem to make a difference, it does, it really helps.
· Later on, invite them out to join in activities, but don't be disheartened and give up if they keep on refusing you: one day they will be ready and will say yes.
· If the bereaved person is not a family member or someone you know well, it is still a kind gesture to acknowledge their loss and express your sympathy. Don’t worry about what to say. All you need to say is that you are sorry. Avoiding them or saying nothing can be much more hurtful than stumbling over what you say.
Here endeth the lesson.