So many of my grieving clients say people avoid them or don’t step up the way they expected. It’s common to become frozen, paralyzed with fear, worried you will say the wrong thing. Don’t be afraid of speaking in clichés. People aren’t counting on you to provide the brilliant gem that will fix things. Your presence and your caring are what they appreciate. You can just say, “I’m so sorry,” or “I’m thinking of you.” Early in my career, I was working in a hospital, and I remember going to my first funeral for a child. I just looked into the eyes of the parents and said, “I’m so sorry,” as we all teared up. I was with them, expressing my sorrow. I wasn’t presuming to have their sorrow. I had my own sorrow. To me, that’s the essence of what this is about—being present, witnessing, caring, and not running away from people when they’re hurting.
—Robert Zucker, grief counselor