That moment when someone you care for has suffered an unspeakable loss.  Maybe it's the loss of a parent, a friend, a job.. maybe it's the loss of a child. 

"The function of friends is to be the sounding board for grief" - Joshua Lath Liebman

Easier said than done, right?  You don't know what to say, or how to say it.  You don't want to make the situation worse by saying the wrong thing so... you say nothing at all and hope that time will heal your friend and things will go back to the way they were.

But the truth is, nothing will ever be the same.  Your friend needs you.  When people are hurting, you should run towards them, not away - even with the best intentions.

Here are some tips on how to help you reach out to a grieving friend:

Communicate that you care.  Give a hug or a touch.  It's okay to say little - your presence takes the place of words.

Be present.  Acknowledge that you too feel helpless.  Do not offer any easy answers or explanations.

Be yourself.  Bring flowers, bake cookies, write a letter - however you express yourself.  Offer to prepare a meal, clean the house, watch the children.  And follow through.  This kind of help lifts burdens and creates a bond.

Listen without judgement.  Accept whatever feelings are expressed. 

Respond with empathy.   Avoid cliches. 

Keep in touch.  You may think you are being considerate by leaving the person alone, but the griever often feels abandoned.  Visits and phone calls are helpful.

Be patient.  There is no timetable for grief.

Assist, but do not push the griever towards recovery.  Let them know that changes are okay.  Remind them that their memories are always with them.  Invite them to go places with you.  Be there to listen.  Encourage them to reach out and be involved.  Be a true friend.