The truth is that no one can truly comfort a friend who just lost a loved one. The void left by death is too large to be filled by another, but simply being present, may be the best thing that you can do. Being present means being available, being open, and being receptive. However, these passive activities can seem a little ambiguous, especially when you're emotionally preoccupied. Below are some ways that you can best help a friend that is grieving.
Communicate openly: Immediately after you learn of your friends loss, acknowledge it through a phone call or in person meeting. Let them know that you are thinking about them and that you care.
Choose your words wisely: Try to imagine what you'd like to hear if you were in a similar situation. However, use caution if you're inclined to try to be optimistic. Mourners during the first stage of grief are not in a place to hear that. While these comments are well intended, it can come off that you are trying to minimize the gravity of the loss.
Listen more than you talk: Invite your friend to talk about their loved one and and share fond stories or memories. Listen with genuine interest and curiosity. If their loss was sudden and unexpected, signal your willingness to hear the dark side. In some cases, professional help might be required, but having someone that they can open up to about details of the event can help lighten the burden they are carrying. Just understand that your friend may get emotional, and you might too.
Offer help: This is one of the best ways to be present for your friend. Try to be specific with your offers of assistance. Find a specific need that needs to be met and meet it. For example, providing dinner on a Thursday night when you know that your friend might be rushing around trying to take care of errands. Little acts of kindness like this can really help your friend get through the difficult weeks and months that will follow a loss. An important distinction to make is that you should be offering help, not forcing it. If your friend refuses your help, then it might be best to allow your friend some space to take a breather.
Check in weeks and months later: Most close friends and family members will offer overwhelming support directly after a loss. After a few months, people often feel like everyone has moved on. Make a reminder in your phone to check in after a few months with a phone call to see how your friend is doing with their loss.
Following these guidelines will convey that you understand what your friend is going through and are someone that he/she will always be able to lean on in a time of need. People never forget those who are there for them when times get difficult. If your friend is really struggling with their grief, professional counseling can really help them navigate the different stages of grief. You can learn more about grief and the different stages by clicking here.