Slowly losing a parent to a long-term illness or injury can be emotionally taxing for an entire family. Watching your best friend lose a parent can also prove challenging for you. While you cannot take away your friend's grief, there are things you can say to bring comfort during this trying time.
Handling her father's affairs can leave your friend emotionally and physically drained. Offering to help in such ways as picking up her kids from school or doing her grocery shopping can be helpful, according to the 2001 LifeCare Guide "Helping Others Cope With Grief" from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Offering to visit her father when she is unable to do so can also bring much-needed relief. If your friend refuses an offer of help, accept her wishes, but let her know that you are available if she changes her mind.
Words to Comfort
As your friend processes what is to come, give him the chance to guide your interactions. You can say "I'm here for you if you would like to talk," according to the article "Communicating with the Family," published on the website of Canadian Virtual Hospice, a palliative care resource based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is also acceptable to ask about his father's treatment and diagnosis, which may give him the means to talk out his feelings. Let your friend know that you care about him and love him, and that he can ask if he needs anything from you, according to the article "How to Express Sympathy: What to Say and What Not to Say" on Everplans.com, a grief support web site.
Not all words are created equally. Though it can be difficult watching someone pass away, you should not deny what is happening to your friend. Acknowledge her fears and grief. Avoid saying "you will soon feel better," "don't cry," "he could get better," or "I know how you feel," suggests the 2001 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' LifeCare Guide. Trying to put a positive spin on her father's death can also be hurtful. You should not say "at least you have the chance to say good-bye," according to Everplans.com.
Grief can begin long before his father's death and continue for months afterward, so checking in with your friend regularly can be helpful even after the funeral or memorial, according to the 2001 LifeCare Guide. Pay attention to your friend's emotional health during this time too. If his grief seems to deepen, he withdraws from other aspects of his daily life, or he begins idealizing death, urge him to see a doctor immediately. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for guidance as you help your grieving friend (See Resources).