Making conversation the first time you see your friend who has lost a parent can be really challenging if you overthink it. The important thing isn’t what you say, but to be there for that person, to be supportive. As people have told me, even adults have a hard time saying the right thing; don’t expect to get it perfect.
When you first see them, the most important thing is to give them a hug and tell them that you are there if they need you. A lot of times people don’t want to talk about the tragic incidences in their life, especially if it is a recent event. It is really important to take notice of the cues from your friend, however small, that indicate whether he or she wishes to talk. Know that some people will be hysterically crying and some people will pretend like they aren’t affected at all. No matter how your friend acts, you need to know that he or she is hurting and looking for support. Which is where you come in. If your friend wants to talk about his or her parent(s), you should do mostly listening, and speak just to comfort them. If your friend wants to talk but not about the situation, then oblige and tell him or her about something funny that happened to you recently, or about your teachers from school. If your friend doesn’t want to talk but still wishes to hang out with you, then you can suggest one of the following things:
- Throw a ball
- Watch a TV show (specifically one of their favorites)
- Play a game
- Search the web
- Go shopping
All of these things help because they don’t involve talking, which can be hard after a loss. No matter which of these things you end up doing, your most important job is to reassure your friend that he or she is not alone, and that you are there for support.