The shooting death of Dwon “D.J.” Fields Jr. on March 5, and the injuries of two other young men in the car with him, has wreaked havoc with the emotions of our community. We are collectively stunned, horrified, angry, sad.

Whether we know D.J., E.J. and Kylan or not, whether we know their parents and grandparents, we feel the loss and we grieve with the families.

We want to support the families in this most difficult time of their lives, but we don’t know what to do. Sometimes we don’t even know what to say. We certainly don’t want to say the wrong thing.

Though I do not know any of these family members, I wanted to write a message in this space that might somehow give them a bit of comfort, a bit of peace, even a bit of hope for their future. I wanted them to know that people in the community that they don’t know are holding the family in their thoughts and prayers.

But I didn’t know quite what to say. And I suspect that’s true for many others in our community. What does one say or do in a time like this?

Drawing on some years working at a hospice agency as a communications director, I offer these suggestions for those who might be looking for guidance.

Often, the most meaningful thing to say is a simple, heartfelt “I’m so sorry.” It signals that you really don’t have any words of wisdom, nothing brilliant or profound to offer. And that’s fine.

A person who is grieving isn’t looking for brilliance or a solution to their grief, but a bit of comfort and compassion. “I’m sorry” can be a tremendous comfort, especially when you say it in person.

If you are a friend of the family, your presence is key. Just be there. Listen if the person wants to talk. Don’t overthink trying to say the right thing. Just be present and attentive. Sit in silence if that’s what the person wants.

Be careful of trite phrases. Don’t say “I know how you feel,” because you don’t. You might have experienced a tragedy in your life, and you know the pain you felt. But you can’t know the pain of another.

A better thing to say is, “I’m sorry this happened to you and your family” or “I’m sorry you lost someone you love so much.”

Try your best not to say, “Call me if there’s anything I can do for you.” The grieving person is sometimes trying to just get through the next hour, and is likely not to remember who offered what. And they probably won’t call.

A better way to offer help is to say, “What can I do for you right now?” You might offer to bring a meal,  pick up relatives at the airport, clean up the kitchen, walk the dog, or buy orange juice for breakfast.

The home where the family gathers is likely to need extra plates, cups and utensils for meals. Consider making a delivery of paper plates, plastic cups, utensils, napkins, paper towels, and ice. A bag of coffee beans or tea bags might be welcome.

In this case, D.J.’s family is asking for more answers. His father, Dwon Fields Sr., asked in a police update on March 9 that anyone who knows anything surrounding the incident come forward and tell what they know. “If you’re afraid, just call in, say what you need to say and hang up the phone. Just please come forward.”

The Bluffton Police Department Crime Tip Line is 843-706-4560, or call Sgt. Ryan Fazekas directly at 843-540-5724.

To Dwon’s family, we are sorry this happened to you. Your community loves you, we see you, we grieve with you.