Dear Ann:

I believe many of your readers would appreciate some guidance in a rather sensitive area. Maybe I can offer some help. I read an article by Jacques Picard that really opened my eyes. I hope you will print it.

-- M.L.R., Lake Geneva, Wisc.

Thanks for thinking of me. The article you sent should prove helpful to a great many readers. Here are some highlights:

There are right and wrong things to say and do when a friend has lost a loved one. The most important thing, however, is to be there.

So many people don't know what is appropriate to say or do, so they don't say or do anything. Silence can be interpreted as indifference. This can be very hurtful to the person who is grieving.

Use common sense and tact. Make yourself useful. There are many ways you can help. Ask if the bereaved needs you to do some errands -- or needs to be driven somewhere. Help him keep a list of friends who have brought over casseroles or sent flowers, so they can be thanked appropriately later.

Listen. The best thing you can do is be present and listen. Don't try to find answers for a person when he needs to find his own answers.

Be sincere. Speak from the heart. Don't offer cliches, such as "Things always work out for the best," or "He is at peace now."

Don't proselytize. While religion can be a great comfort, avoid talking about religion unless you know the person shares your beliefs. Let the person who is grieving lead the conversation, and encourage him to talk.

Share memories. Say the person's name. Talk about the happy times you had together. Repeating incidents that have a bit of humor can dispel the gloom -- even at a funeral. No one will consider it sacrilegious. They will welcome the levity.

Stay in touch. This takes time and energy, but it will be greatly appreciated. Continue to check in with the grieving person for the first month or two, or longer, and offer to help. Remember the anniversaries and holidays -- birthdays, and the first anniversary of the death -- often bring the grief back. Call or ask if he would like company, or would be interested in doing something special, perhaps a visit to the cemetery. Your kindness will never be forgotten.

Dear Ann:

Recently, a good friend of mine sent this to me. I don't know who the author is, but it made me smile. If you are smiling, too, maybe you'll print it in your column.

-- Mr. X in Virginia

I AM smiling, and here it is:

Only in America do people order double cheeseburgers, a large order of fries and a Diet Coke.

Only in America do drugstores make the sick customers walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions.

Only in America do banks leave both doors open, and then chain the pens to the counters.

Only in America do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and keep useless junk in the garage.

Only in America do we buy hot dogs in packages of 10 and buns in packages of eight.

Only in America do we use answering machines to screen calls, and then have call waiting, so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place.

To find out more about Ann Landers and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

(C) 1999, Creators Syndicate Inc.