This is an excellent article from Kveller on how to make a difficult shiva call. Frankly, all shiva calls are difficult. You are going to the home of a mourner and sitting with their terrible grief.
How to Make a Tragic Shiva Call offers eleven rules that can apply to any shiva call. As the author says, “Shiva calls are scary. We are scared to go to visit those mourning the sudden, too-early, tragic loss of a loved one. We are scared that we’ll make it worse. We’re scared that we’ll catch their pain and won’t be able to cope with it. We’re scared that we won’t know what to say. Sometimes these fears overwhelm us, and we decide not to go.”
I thought her statement, “We’re scared we’ll catch their pain and won’t be able to cope with it,” is simply brilliant. It does indeed require of us that we not overly identify with the mourner. To be of help we must focus on what their needs are, not create needs in ourselves.
Read the article; I think you’ll find it most helpful.