No matter what your means of expressing your sympathy, it is important to clearly identify yourself to the family. Upon arrival, go to the family, and express your sympathy with an embrace or by offering your hand. Depending on your relationship to the family, you may say something like, “I am so sorry about John. He was a good friend, and I will miss him very much.” In addition to expressing sympathy it is also fitting, if desired to relate to family members your fond memories of the deceased. Kinds words about the deceased are always appropriate.
If the bereaved wants to talk, they usually need to express their feelings – they aren’t necessarily looking for a response from you. They may say things that seem irrational or pose questions that have no answer. The kindest response is usually a warm hug, and a sympathetic, “I understand”.