How do I sympathise?

This year several of my friends have lost a parent, some completely out of the blue and others after long, drawn-out battles.

Seeing Angelina Jolie crying at the screening of her new film ‘The Changeling’ the other day when talking about her late mother reminded me how much they must all be hurting.

At the time, I struggled to know what to say to let them know I was there for them, as I felt that nothing I could write in a card would do justice to how they were feeling. But I almost think that it’s now, when all the sympathy cards and flowers are gone, that they need people most.

Angelina lost her mother almost two years ago and yet still obviously finds it hard to talk about her and misses her all the time. When I see my friends now, you wouldn’t know they had been through something awful in recent months, but I guess that doesn’t mean they’re not feeling it.

So what should I do as their friend? I’m torn between not mentioning it when we meet up and worrying that they’ll think I don’t care or I’ve forgotten, or bringing it up at the risk of upsetting them when they’re trying to have a nice time.

Most of us have been through something similar, so what do you think? Is it enough for your friends to be there with smiles and nights out or does everyone, deep down, just want to talk?