Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma ... Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma ... Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones ... Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring ... Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.
Silk and Goldman call this "The Ring Theory." Its guiding principle is "Comfort IN, dump OUT." That means a person's role is to give comfort and support -- and nothing else -- to anyone in a smaller ring than he or she occupies (here's an illustration). If a person needs to share his or her own worry or distress or debate or criticism (or personal philosophy), that's OK, "just do it to someone in a bigger ring."While the Ring Theory may require exceptions to the rule, it's a brilliant starting place for orienting oneself before interacting with someone who is bereaved -- and I highly recommend it.