Seldom does a friend feel more helpless than in the hour of grief. In most cases, we have the ability to turn a bad situation into one slightly less horrible either through some kind of purchase or great effort. But when it comes to grief – deep, consuming, soul-shaking grief – there isn’t much to be done.

Two and a half years ago, on a Thursday night, my best friend’s mother died from a sudden heart attack. As I drove to be with my friend the next day, the knot in my stomach grew at an inversely proportional rate to my distance from her house. Anything I could conceive to do to help seemed a meaningless action.

Then God called to my mind a single verse from Job:

Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words. (2:13)

I was arrested by its simplicity. Don’t do anything. Don’t say a word. Just be there, in the grief, mourning together. The Jews call it sitting shiva, and I think it’s one of the most effective ways to help.

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