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I have an online friend whose little sister just passed away from congenital heart defects.

I don’t know this friend in person, and she lives 4 hours away from me so I can’t hop in the car and go give her a hug. For that matter, I don’t have my drivers license yet, so unless someone drives me I don’t go to the funeral either. Technically a plane ticket is an option but I’m old enough that I need a drivers license for identification.

It’s really hard to comfort someone when you’re not in person. What can I do to help her through this over text and phone calls?

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Comforting someone while not in their physical proximity can be hard. But it seems that you have a strong desire to be a support to your friend, which is what true friendship is made of.

I would consider a couple of things:

  • Offer up your support, words can mean just about as much as a real hug to comfort someone in need.
  • Don't be overbearing, after telling your friend that you support him or her, allow your friend to come to you. There is a really delicate balance that you need to find.
  • The first few months your friend is going to have a whole lot of support from a whole lot of people. Often the worst time after loosing a loved one is after this support seems to fade away, everyone goes back to their regular lives and can think that the family of the deceased person also does the same. So after this initial time, make sure your friend knows you're still there for them.
  • Try not to act like you feel pity for your friend, there is a marked difference between feeling sorrow for someone's loss and feeling pity for someone. Pity can be used to connote feelings of superiority, condescension, or contempt, and it could be really hurtful to your friend and friendship.
  • Follow your friends lead. If she/he doesn't want to talk about his/her sister, don't force the issue. Sometimes for some people they need to be reminded that life still goes on and can return to normal.

The most important thing is that you do your best to just be there for your friend in whatever way you can. Being near or far from someone doesn't change how much you care about them and your friend will be able to see that you care about him/her.

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    The third point here is very important. My grandma told me that, after grandpa died, the hardest thing was after the funeral when everyone said, "If you need anything, let me know. Well, we're leaving now." And that was when she really found herself dealing with the loss of her husband - when she woke up and after years, the house was just.. quiet and it was going to stay quiet. I'd even suggest adding "show support after others have left" or something similar to that. – baldPrussian Jan 25 at 21:15
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The best thing you can do is to be Sympathetic. Simply put, sympathy is "feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune." Wikihow has a pretty good walkthrough of ways to show sympathy for someone. Since you are unable to see them in person, I'll only outline the verbal (could be used in text as well) options.

Be direct and acknowledge their pain

I'm sorry to hear about your sister. I can't imagine how hard this is for you."

Whether you have had a similar experience or not, it is important not to say something along the lines of "I know how you feel". When I was younger I had a friend whose father died. My mother explained to me that I should not tell him I know how he feels, because that can be very offensive to someone who is experiencing grief. As I got older and experienced loss myself, I found that the last thing I wanted to hear someone say was "I know how you feel". Everyone experiences grief differently, so it is best to simply acknowledge that they have pain and you are sorry that they have the pain.

Make yourself available

If you need to talk about anything, I'm always willing to listen.

Don't push them for information. As I mentioned earlier, everyone grieves differently. Offer to listen if they need it, but leave the decision of whether or not they do up to them. If they decide to talk, just listen. People who are grieving rarely want someone to offer them advice on how to cope, but they may want to talk through the pain they are feeling.

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