Ultimately, the goal is to help someone work out their feelings. Work out doesn't mean expedite. Rather it means giving them space to feel (and not suppress) their emotions and a non-judgmental ear that allows them to work through those feelings.
This can be hard to do if you are very close to the person. This is why therapy or other type of counseling is so useful when someone is grieving.
I always fall back on something that a professor told me a long time ago. The first duty of a friend when someone they love is grieving is to be there. Not to talk. Not to fix it. Nor expedite it. Just the willingness to be present.
People often struggle with this advice as they can feel so helpless. Like they "should be doing something." What the willingness (or maybe stubborness) to be present means to me is that I:
- Don't let my discomfort in seeing them in pain make me shut down
- hold them when the want to be held
- Leave when they want me to go (but be close by)
- Listen when they want to talk
- Wait when I don't know what to do next
I abandoned the idea of becoming a therapist because I couldn't separate others pain from my own. And, so I'd be useless doing this on a daily basis. But, the above is how I approach being a friend to someone in pain.