When a friend or acquaintance loses a loved one, it's natural to want to reach out. Sometimes, however, we don't know about the death until after the funeral. Other times we have trouble finding the words and procrastinate in offering condolences.

Is it ever too late to express your sympathy to someone who has suffered a loss?

If you're trying to follow proper etiquette, it's best to send a note, gift or flowers within two weeks of the funeral. However, you can do it later, as long as you feel it would be helpful rather than painful. If you found out about the death too late to respond in a timely fashion, you can explain that in your note. You might also want to send a plant or gift basket to the grieving family, which will be welcome even after the funeral is over.

Sometimes, an offer of help is appreciated after the fact. Immediately following a death, there's often plenty of help. But after that initial rush of activity fades away, people in mourning still need practical assistance. Reach out to your friend to help meet a need, whether that means bringing a meal, providing childcare, running an errand or helping to clean out a closet.

No matter how long ago the death occurred, an offer of a listening ear or comforting presence is almost always welcome. Contact your friend and extend an invitation to have coffee, dinner, a walk or just a chat. Begin the conversation with an expression of sympathy, but listen more than you speak, allowing your friend to tell his or her story and express grief without interruption. End the conversation by expressing a willingness to get together again.

If you're trying to find the perfect sympathy flowers or gift, Nakamura Mortuary can help. Here's a link to our florist. We're also available to answer your questions and explain the benefits of preplanning. Call (808) 495-4308 for more information, or visit our Plan Ahead page to request your free preplanning kit.