Be there and listen.
Listen to the story of what happened, without interrupting. Depending on your relationship, just going over to the house and sitting there may be the best thing. If they have 103 people who have already descended on their house, maybe just showing up for a quick hug would be appropriate. But being there and listening was a big one for our group.
Don't ask "What can I do?" or, "Call me if you need anything." Instead, say, "I'd like to do ______ on this____ day. Would that help?" Think about how your gifts intersect with their needs. Can you cook? Do yard work? Babysit the other kids or take them out for ice cream? Clean their house? Give money? If you are an organizer, can you call people and organize meals or a yard cleanup or a house cleaning? Be bold and do it!
After all the friends and family go away and the person is left with an empty house, remember them with cards or e-mails. Go out to coffee with them. Pray for them. Drop flowers off on their doorstep, like one of my sweet anonymous friends did just recently--what a comfort it is to know that people remember and care!
Talk about their loved one.
Say the child's name. Remember stories about them and don't be afraid to tell them. Get over the fear of tears. Harriet Schiff, author of The Bereaved Parent says, "The reality is that we don't forget, move on, have closure, but rather we honor, we remember, and incorporate our deceased children into our lives in a new way. In fact, keeping memories of your loved one alive in your mind and heart is an important part of your healing journey."
Lastly, don't avoid people who are grieving, because you are uncomfortable or don't know what to say. You've read this whole post, so now you know what to say and what not to. You know what to do and what not to. Your presence will be a gift they will never forget. And if you do these things, guess who will be right there when you lose someone close to you?
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. -Henri Nouwen