How to Help
Recently a close friend of mine died in a car accident. He was married only six months ago. My friend was only 20 and his wife 19. Neither is Jewish, and my friend was cremated. This is the first time someone has died that not only did I know, but felt very close to. Though neither he nor his family is Jewish, what is my duty as a Jew to do for them, and myself?
Dear Jeff Nelson,
The death of a loved one is always very traumatic. One is often confronted with a sense of helplessness and uselessness in the face of tragedy. Our Torah requires us to offer kindness to any person, and comforting friends at a time of loss is a great mitzvah. The best comfort you can offer to people at such a time is to be there for them. If they want to talk, be there to listen. If they want to be silent, be silent with them so that they are not alone.
Don't just ask "what can I do to help?" See what needs to be done and do it. Perhaps they need food; perhaps there are errands that need to be run or other ways in which you can be useful.
Often, after a few weeks have passed people forget about the mourners and go on with their lives. The mourners still need to know that someone cares. Be there for your friends when all the fuss is over and everyone has gone home. May you and your friends know no more sorrow.