Answer: First off, I love this question. I am asked it often and in many different ways. The fact that others care enough to ask how they can support someone in their journey of grief leaves me hopeful that we have a generation of people being loved well in their brokenness.
I can only speak on the most helpful things for me and others I've spoken with. Here are 3 ideas I believe are key.
1. Don't Be Afraid-At first take this may sound a little weird, what would I have to be afraid of? Well, death. As much a part of life death can be, it's still not a comfortable subject for any of us, especially when the person who died was young. In our aftermath I could tell a lot of people seemed downright afraid to be around me. Afraid to say Joel's name. Afraid to say the wrong thing. Afraid to say anything. Don't be afraid, just be there. I guarantee if you are being loving/kind you aren't saying the "wrong" thing. And if you are, the grieving will give you grace because you approached it in love. Don't be afraid to talk about their loved one. In fact, I love nothing more than sitting down, and laughing about some of my favorite Joel memories. It makes me feel as if he's not forgotten. Other grievers have told me the same.
2. Be Consistent-Grief is a "long-haul" life situation and supporting the person walking through it should be viewed as such. I cannot even begin to tell you the wealth of support I received the first month, only to see 95% of it dry up within weeks. It left me feeling disappointed and alone. Not a good feeling. Remember that although you get to return to life as normal, the grieving person(s) never will. Think of them on holidays, important dates and even random dates. Check in on them; let them know you love them. The simplest of concern goes a long way.
3. Listen-One small word that is powerful. Listen to the grieving one(s) as they share their heart. Listen as they share their pain. Listen as they share their stories. Always be a willing ear. In fact, if you listen long enough most people will tell you all on their own what it is they need. Mourn with those who mourn. As much as possible feel their pain as if it were your own.
I'll leave you with this: the Golden Rule. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Quite simply, it's the same with grief. Treat the one grieving with the same love and thoughtfulness YOU would like to be given if it were you. Because one day it most likely will be. That's the thing about life; death is the one thing that is certain. As hard as it is, grief is a common feeling we will all experience to one degree or another. Having now been the person to walk through it, I have regrets about not better being there for others in the past. Regret is never a fun place to be. So love others hard. Love them well.
Thanks for your question Lisa!