Winston recently lost his brother to cancer. When a dear friend failed to call him afterward, Winston was hurt. “Why didn’t Alison call?” he wondered. “She must not care.”

Maybe Alison felt uncomfortable… Maybe she didn’t know what to say… Maybe she wanted to give Winston a few days to compose himself. But whatever she was thinking, not calling as soon as she heard about his brother’s death was a mistake.

When people lose someone close to them, they don’t need silence. They need to feel that other people care – that they are not alone.

If you don’t know what to say, tell them that you don’t know what to say. If you feel awkward, tell them that you feel awkward. But no matter what you do, or how you convey your condolences, make sure you acknowledge their loss instead of avoiding it.

Saying something as simple as “I’m so sorry for your loss” will give your friend the sympathy he needs.

[Ed. Note: What’s most important to you during times of loss? How would you like your friends and loved ones to show you they care? Let us know in the comments section.]