Make it clear that it’s OK for the bereaved to cry in front of you, especially if they’re having to appear strong for other people (their children, for example). It’s important you listen properly when your friend talks and take part in the conversation. Some of the conversations may be painful, especially if you’re also grieving. They can be repetitive, too – small details can become very important. But that’s how people work through their grief and come to accept what’s happened, so it’s important to go with the flow.
At a crematorium it is more normal for mourners to wait outside and follow the coffin and family members into the building. Whether the ceremony is held in a church or a crematorium, the seats at the front will normally be reserved for the chief mourners. Fill in the seats behind them, rather than sitting at the back: it makes the family and friends feel more supported, and any singing will be more confident and cheering.
You can never know exactly how another person feels, so don’t pretend or assume that you do. It will change from day to day, anyway. One day your friend may want a hug, another time they may turn away. Just be patient with them. It’s all part of the process, and the time-frame varies from person to person.
Grief becomes easier to bear, but there are still times when it will rear its ugly head again. Christmas, birthdays and wedding anniversaries are particularly hard, so it’s important to be around for them if you can.
As time passes, make sure your friend starts having a social life, too. It’s very easy to get used to loneliness but it’s not a healthy long-term condition, so invite them for a meal or offer to babysit while they have an evening out.