In general, most people find it difficult to find the words or actions to correctly convey just how sorry/sad they are about the loss of a loved one. Nothing you do is too little or too much, just doing something is what matters.
Here are some ways you can help family and friends in this time of need.
Sign the online guestbook.
This is the easiest way to let them know you are thinking of them. Be brief and to the point with words of condolence. If you knew the deceased or their family or friends then be sure to personalize your message.
Send a personal note to the family.
This is a much more in-depth option where you can share more personal details in a private note.
Attend the visitation, service or both.
You may not get a chance to speak with family members or friends at length, but the fact that you took the time out of your busy schedule to attend will mean the world to them.
Send flowers or make memorial contributions.
If it was requested that contributions be made in lieu of flowers, always comply. The organization(s) chosen have a special meaning either to the deceased or their loved ones.
If you are nearby and can bring food to the house, then do so. If it was the loss of a spouse or caregiver then bring meals that can be prepared later. It will be a big transition for them and having meals they can prepare quickly on their own will be a huge help. If it was a family member or close friend then bring over lunch meat tray, pastries or veggie trays to help feed any guests that may stop by the house to pay their respects.
Offer to house-sit, babysit or pet-sit.
House-sit: In some cases, it is a great thing to offer to sit at the house for security reasons while the family is at the funeral. They have published in the paper and on the website when and where the funeral is being held and most people expect everyone to be attending the funeral so it leaves the home vulnerable to intrusion and theft.
Babysit: Often families do not prefer to bring their infants or small children to the funeral service for whatever reason. Offering to watch the kids while they attend the funeral can help alleviate any extra stress caused by this situation.
Pet-sit: Travelling out of town to a funeral often leaves people with last minute stress about what to do with their pets. If you can, offer to watch their pets while they are out of town. It will take off a big burden during this difficult time.
Call or write to those you were close with in the weeks following the funeral.
Many times, after all the personal interactions of the visitation and funeral are over, it becomes very lonely for the loved ones. Be sure to let them know you are there if they need anything.
Most of all ... offer your support, prayers and kindness.
This is one of the most (if not THE most) difficult times in their lives. Knowing they are not alone in their grief, that they have friends and family to turn to will help them get through these toughest of times.