1. No one knows what to say. There are no right words. The best thing to say is the truth. "I don't know what to say." or even just say "This sucks." I would advise to stay away from phrases such as, "God has a plan." "Everything happens for a reason." or "Your loved one is in a better place." While you may believe these things, they all imply that there's a reason and purpose for the tragic, shitty thing that happened. Sometimes there isn't a reason, bad stuff just happens.
2. Hire someone to clean their house. This is a tricky one, but man was it awesome to have a clean house. I was laid up for a week after having Baby David and my mom hired my Aunt Ree to clean for us. It was too much to ask of Dave (he was grieving too and trying to manage everything else in the house). The tricky part is some people are private and having someone they don't know come into the their home during a vulnerable timemight be too much, so use your discretion with this one.
3. If you want to give a gift, give gifts to help them cope, such as art supplies. I received so many gifts and treats...everyone was so generous. But one of my favorite gifts I got was art supplies. I have used the supplies as part of my healing: doodling, crafting, and card making. It has helped me spark the creativity in me again.
4. Talk about the person they lost, and don't be afraid to say their name. It's hard for me to talk about David, say his name out loud, or even type it sometimes, but when I do, I always feel better. It's uncomfortable, but when someone asks to see a picture of him, or talks about him being present in a ray of sunshine, my heart melts. It means a lot when a friend cares enough to remember him, and tells me.
5. Send a card when it happens, but then, send another one 3 months later. After a tragedy or death the amount of cards you receive is unbelievable. People you wouldn't expect reach out to you and send their love and sometimes even gifts and money. But then, after a month, the card faucet drips and the next thing you know, it shuts off. And there you are still trying to cope with what happened and you feel all alone after that outpouring of love. A month goes by, and another one, and everyone gets back to living their lives, taking their kids to ball games, making supper each night and planning their family vacations. And here you are, still in your grief. I heard somewhere that 3 months after a tragedy is when the grief can feel the hardest. It's that limbo time between what happened and moving on with your life. So if you know someone who has lost, send a card. Then mark in your calendar 3+ months from now to remember to send them another card. Just a reminder that, hey you're not alone, I haven't forgotten about you and I'm here if you need me.
Everyone is different in their needs, especially when they are grieving. I hope these 5 things help you navigate helping a friend in a time of loss.