Each year, I get hundreds of calls from people asking about the best way to comfort a friend or relative who has suffered a serious loss or setback. There are right things—and wrong things to say and do at such times.

First, beware of well-meant but misguided words that spark resentment.

Examples: "I know how you feel the other person may think, No, you don'))... "It will all work out for the best" (How could you possibly know that)...or "It's God's will" (Who are you to say what God wants). So what should you say? Keep it simple-"I'm so sorry for your loss."

Don't let fear of saying the wrong thing keep you away. Realistically, one person can't take away another's pain. But showing up in person sends a clear message—"I care about you, and I'm here to help if there's anything I can do." Your presence can lighten the other person's sense of isolation-and you may find there is something concrete you can do to help.

I'm also a great fan of the hug. A touch communicates our caring well beyond our ability to verbalize. Whether or not you know what to say, a warm embrace brings a measure of comfort.

If it is impossible to visit in person, a phone call is better than nothing. Follow up with a note of condolence—handwritten, not E-mailed.

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