1. Pray first, and be led by the Holy Spirit in all we say and do. Ask the Holy Spirit to show us their needs and to give us comforting words that will relieve their grief.
2. Sometimes, it’s best to say nothing at all; just be there. As a picture is worth a thousand words, our silent presence can be, too.
3. Listen. Let them talk, and don’t try to have the answers.
4. Don’t strive to say the right thing, simply tell them we love them and that we’re here if they need us. Proverbs 10:19 counsels, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”
5. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” Take food, look for ways to physically help and serve them. Clean their house, watch their kids, run their errands. Do whatever we can to ease other burdens so they have time and strength to grieve.
6. Pray for them. Ask permission to pray for them when we’re with them, and pray without ceasing when we’re not. We can even write our prayers to them in a card, email, or text. Pray scripture over them and their situation. Pray with understanding and with the spirit.
7. ALWAYS point them to the cross, to the comforter Himself. To the source of peace that passes understanding. To our eternal hope.
8. Share God’s words of comfort. Assure them that as they place their faith entirely in Jesus, staying their minds on Him, He will give them perfect peace. He will not leave or forsake them. He is all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, and in control. Encourage them to trust in Him, even in the midst of their suffering, that He is faithful, good, trustworthy, and always the only answer. Faith doesn’t always change our circumstances or bring about our desired result, but faith always is the answer in our circumstances, trusting Him to carry us through.
9. Be extremely discerning and sensitive (see number one). The right words at the wrong time might have disastrous results, whereas those same words spoken at the right time can be exactly what a person needs to hear. Someone who just lost a parent, spouse, or child might not respond well to sincere encouragement that God will work even that to good. It is true, and I have turned to that promise more times than I can count, but in the freshness of a grave loss, those words may be met with bitterness rather than relief.
10. Some of what we say may depend on whether we’ve walked in their shoes. Words spoken by someone who has been through the exact same circumstances might be received differently than the same words spoken by someone who has no idea what they’re experiencing.