A few thoughts on offering condolences to friends who are either going through a difficult time or have lost someone important in their lives.
1. Speak to them as soon as you hear. If you live in the same place, go see them. If you don’t, call. And do so immediately.
A common excuse when I suggest this is the feeling that the friend might be uncomfortable speaking to you if you aren’t close. I think that this sort of reason is the excuse we give ourselves for not summoning up the courage to call or to be there. The person in grief has no time to worry about being uncomfortable – they are uncomfortable and may need your support. So, go offer your support.
2. Once you meet them, plan your support. Some people cope with a situation just fine. That’s great. Make sure you’re there for them if they need you and see if you can stay in touch for a short while.
For ones who have been harder hit, one idea I would suggest is to set up a daily call with them at a particular time. If you live close by, be there regularly. The one thing that helps in such a time is structure as one day melts into the next with no reprieve. And your call/meeting may be the start of the process of getting structure back into their lives.
If there is a case for financial support, then you can take it upon yourself to see if you can help muster up some funds from friends.
Finally, don’t worry about what to say. Even if it’s silence when you speak to them, it’s not a bad outcome. It’s the feeling of support that you remember. Be yourself when you meet them and do your best to help. Years after my dad’s passing away, I still remember my two hilarious neighbours who spent long periods with me during that time and just made laugh. They always made me laugh and they didn’t let a difficult time stop them. Meeting them was something I really looked forward to as laughing made me believe all would indeed be okay.
Difficult times are times to just show up and be there. So, show up and be there.