So someone close to you has lost a loved one, and you feel that you owe it to them to try to make things ok. Unfortunately, the simplest answer is that you can’t. There’s no avoiding the sadness they’re feeling—and no matter how hard you try to distract them, they’re not going to feel like themselves for quite a while. However, there are a few things you can do to make day-to-day life a little easier for them, and to provide something to smile about in their shaken, upside-down world.
The greatest piece of advice I can give to you is just to keep being their friend. That may sound dumb, but it’s the only thing you can do. And it’s more difficult and complicated than you might expect.
The first thing you need to understand going into this is that everyone grieves differently, and you won’t be able to anticipate how your friend is handling everything. People can change in the days, weeks, or even years following the loss of a parent. They might grow more cynical, subdued, angry, or introverted. They might avoid contact with other people, stop opening up to you, and smile a lot less. The truth is that you can’t expect them to be exactly the same as they were before. They’re experiencing emotions they never thought they had, which is scary and confusing. While you may want them to go back to normal so you can return to having fun together, they don’t owe it to you to rush through their grief for your sake. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t humanly pull it off. It’s a natural and slow-going process that everyone must experience in order to healthily deal with loss.
But don’t worry! You’ll get them back eventually. All it takes is patience and understanding. If you can stick with them through this, your friendship will grow even stronger when things settle down.
The hardest part is figuring out how to “keep being their friend” when you don’t know what it is they need from you. Some people are very open about their grief; they might want to talk about it a lot to get their feelings out. If you’re lucky, they might even explain to you what’s going on in their brain, to help you understand the psychology of grieving the loss of a parent. More often than not, however, teenagers especially turn inside themselves and try to avoid talking about it altogether.