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A friend I met a few months ago over online classes recently (this morning, a few hours ago) lost their father. I live around 12+ hours away from them, so as much as I would like to I cannot go and visit them.

Their relationship with their father had been strained, and they didn't live with their parents. Both I and my friend are young (high school) and I have no experience with loss.

I have never met this friend, nor any of their family in person. I started talking to them after the lockdown so it was never possible to go visit them in person, though we are very close (I feel) because we talk almost daily for lengths of time.

I want to help them out by trying to get them to focus on their studies and keep up basic healthy stuff. The studies part is important because both of us were preparing for an important entrance examination this year. They had a very good chance of getting in. This was a person who was very motivated, and very goofy, so I'm not sure how well they might be handling it. How can I help them out in this situation?

Some helpful information:

  1. I tried looking online for information on helping people who lost loved ones. Most of it focused on older people losing parents, not on two teenagers so advice like "cook food for them!" is not really helpful

  2. My friend does not live with their parents. They had not talked to their father in quite some time before they lost him. Now, they feel guilty for not maintaining good relations, though I think it was their father's fault.

  3. We are of opposite genders. Calling them right now is not an option.

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  • How do you mean "help them out"? Walk through their grief with them? Encourage their studies? Something different? I've started an answer below; if you can answer that I'll edit my answer to include that. – baldPrussian Dec 1 '20 at 2:47
  • @baldPrussian Your answer explains most of those points, and the part about trying to not force them into their routine is what i was wanting to know about – Micelle Dec 1 '20 at 7:29
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I've dealt with grief and taught a good grief class, so perhaps I can help.

You're new to this. Many people who are new to this share a common fear: "What if I do something wrong?" Let me start by saying: if you make an honest attempt and don't try to do anything really bizarre, the odds of you doing something wrong are pretty slim. If you both are of somewhat near to average personalities, any honest attempt will be appreciated.

So... what to do?

Your generation is the most connected generation in human history. Calling is not an option. But e-mailing, texting, or whatever else you have available is. The important thing to dealing with grief is presence. That does not always mean being there and giving people hugs. Sometimes it's just an e-mail to say, "I heard the news; I'm sorry to hear that. How are you holding up?" Sometimes it's a text that says "You OK?" And sometimes it's a small push to normalcy. Given your friend's age, I suspect it's the first time they've had to handle a loss of this magnitude. They think they should feel X but don't quite feel the way they should. Or they just plain don't know what to do.

Different people grieve differently. Some try to desperately continue their life as normal. Others put life on pause for a little bit. And the occasional person never lets go of their grief. Thankfully, it's not your role to deal with the third type of person - that's why God made professional therapists, ministers, and grief counselors.

You want them to continue their life with a degree of normalcy. I applaud that. Life goes on, and the sooner they realize it, the better. Obviously there is a funeral and other arrangements taking place right now and trying to force them into their routine would seem heartless and insensitive.

Here's where I would go. You saw some suggestions above about communicating. I'd start with those. Then I'd ask "When's the funeral? Are you doing anything to close out the estate?" Let them talk a little bit. Sometimes e-mail is good for that.

The big thing, again, is just being there. You don't need to be their best friend now, but letting them know that you understand and are sympathetic is important. As they talk, they will send signals of what they need. They may need space or they may need to talk. Either way, they probably will signal that.

Bless you for wanting to help.

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