If you know me well, you know that I am one to feel uncomfortable at the slightest hint of an awkward situation. Overly empathetic to a a fault, I suppose.
I have missed out on many a sweet moment because I second guessed my words and felt too awkward to say anything. A kind word of encouragement to someone I didn't know well. The right word in a dark moment for fear that it would come out wrong. When something painful happens, people say the wrong things so often.
But I have found that it is often worse to say nothing at all.
So say something.
Say that you heard what happened and admit that you don't know what to say. Tell them you cant pretend to know what they are going through, but remind them that you love and support them still.
Even when times are not hard. When nothing extraordinary has happened, still, say something.
Last fall, I wrote and re-wrote a letter half a dozen times. It was a letter to someone dear to me--a professor who (I was sure) probably meant more to me than I her. But I felt so strongly that to say nothing after four years would fill me with regret, so I wrote her a letter on crisp ivory paper, mailing it west in early September.
Months passed. I never heard a word. And though I was never upset, I began to feel sheepish, somewhat embarrassed, to have assumed that contact from me would bring some form of joy to her life. I considered what I wrote, which, for all my revisions, was nothing very grand, and I began to wonder if I should truly have said anything at all.
Then, yesterday, a letter.
"Dear one," it began. And as I read, leaning against the kitchen sink in the cool quiet of the June afternoon, I was silent, tears threatening the corners of my eyes. Its pure joy to know you are remembered with love.
She apologized for having taken a year to reply, but said that she kept me letter on her desk and looking at it every day, she was filled with encouragement.
So say something.
Because even if you are afraid that simply telling someone that they have been on your mind could be awkward.
It will most likely be just the opposite.