A good friend is there to help and show support during life’s biggest moments: a wedding ceremony, the birth of a child, the death of a parent. When your best friend’s mother dies, she will need you to help her grieve, even if she isn't quite sure how to do it herself. By being present, listening and doing things that show you care, you can be a tower of strength and light, during a dark, confusing time.
Lend an Ear
Lori Pederson of Belief.net says that one of the most important things you can do is to listen to your friend talk about her mother. She may want to talk about how her mother died, or about things about her mother that she will miss; whatever your friend wants to share with you about her mother, you should be a sympathetic ear.
In Psychologytoday.com, Russell Friedman, author of “The Grief Recovery Handbook” warns not to give advice to your friend or to say that you know how your friend feels, even if you yourself have lost a parent. Everyone grieves differently and you don’t want to make your friend feel like there is a right or wrong way to do it. Let your friend be the one to tell you what she needs, rather than you tell her what to do.
Cook for Her
After the funeral and during the first week of grieving, bring food over for several nights of dinners. Additionally, handle any chores that you can for your friend. Pick up the kids from school, walk the dog, pick up the dry cleaning – anything that can make things easier for your friend at her time of grieving will be greatly appreciated.
Offer to Tell Others
Your friend may not want to make the numerous phone calls to other family members about her mother’s death. Ask if you can make those difficult calls for her and ease her burden.
Go to the Funeral
Unless your friend specifically asks you not to, you should plan on attending the funeral and being there for your friend. You may have to even help plan the arrangements, if you have a particularly close relationship. Follow your friend’s religious and cultural beliefs when it comes to attending the funeral and the mourning practice. In the Hindu religion, guests are expected to bring flowers to a funeral and view the body at the ceremony, visiting the home of the mourners afterwards bearing fruit. Many religious Jewish funeral services ask women visitors to cover knees and shoulders with a dress; flowers are not brought to a Jewish funeral and food is taken to the family home where the mourners sit shiva -- receive comfort from friends and family.
Let Her Cry
Kate Evans of Psych Central warns not to tell your friend how strong she is being. Everyone needs to feel like they don’t have to be strong at a time of such emotional pain. Crying is natural, and if your friend wants to cry, you should let her. Remember, this is not about you, it’s about your friend and how she needs to grieve.
Write a Note
Even if you plan on spending a lot of time with your friend, it’s nice to send a card with a personal, hand-written note in it, offering your condolences. The card and note are things that your friend can look at later, after the services are over and she’s alone, and in need of comfort.
Bonnie Crowe is a mother of two teenagers; a teacher and author of children's books, curriculum and articles on English grammar, literature, technology, art, parenting and career guides for high schoolers. She's a former director of AOL Parenting, a member of SCBWI, and a graduate from the University of California,Berkeley.
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