Sunday, October 6, 2013

Suggestions for Your Relationships with Bereaved Parents

Here's a helpful list for whatever it's worth (with the help of Amy and a good friend who also lost her beautiful, beautiful boy to cancer):

Unless you've lost a child, I strongly recommend not saying the following things to bereaved parents... it's exactly the same as someone without kids offering parents parenting advice, or someone who's never been married offering marriage advice. So here it goes:

* Do not say to bereaved parents that their very dead child is somewhere better, or with God, or whatever. It's insulting. You want your child back. Screw heaven. The bereaved parent wants to say back to you, "Oh, really? Would you put your put child there today?"

* Do not say to bereaved parents with surviving children, "At least you have ____ kids." Is that a consolation prize?

* Don't wince and scrunch your face up all sad like when you see them. It looks forced. It looks condescending, and it makes the bereaved parent want to offer you ex-lax.

* Do not ask bereaved parents how they are doing. You know the answer: they're doing shitty. It's a lazy question.

* Do not say to bereaved parents it will get better. It makes the bereaved parent want to say #### you.

* If you know the bereaved parents well, do not—the first time you see them after some time—pretend that nothing's happened. It's their life. It's on their mind 24/7. You can choose to not bring it up if you don't want to, but it would be like not bringing up the birth of a new child or any other major event.

* Don't compare the bereaved parent's loss to the loss of a pet. Furbabies are special and they are a part of your family. But they are not your child.  You did not carry your pet in your womb, birth them etc.  It's just not the same. The bereaved parent will be thinking OMG, you're talking about a ####ing pet!

* Don't ask the bereaved parent if they are "over it."  They will never get over the death of their child. They will always be searching for any sign of them. Their life is a describable journey of survival. Two parts: The part of when their child was with them, and the journey they have to take without them.  They will never be over it.

* And, with all due respect, and if you can, do your best to not complain about your first world parenting problems—healthy problems you have with your healthy kids are things a bereaved parent would kill for.

To be constructive, here's some advice for your relationships you might have with bereaved parents, for what it's worth:

* Know that nothing you can say or do will make anything better. Their child is gone. It's the worst. If you want to maintain your relationship with them, drop that thought as soon as you can. The company and support is all that's needed.

* Share a memory of their son or daughter. Just hearing their child's name and hearing that they are alive in other people's mind will make their day.

* Give them a hug and say—if you are—that you're so sorry for their loss.

* Remember their child on holidays and, if you send them a card or something, include their child's name on the note.  Bereaved parents are reminded every single day that the world goes on... very much without their child.  It is so nice when friends and family help keep their memory alive.  Especially during holidays or special days.

* Cry. Don't be uncomfortable if you cry or if they cry. Losing a child sucks. Crying is love. Tears are not bad. They are beautiful. They are real.

* Be tender to bereaved parents and acknowledge their loss, but let them feel normal. Run with a topic switch. Laugh if they want to laugh. Let them bitch about the traffic, or whatever.

* Be patient. When a child dies, so do their parents. The only difference is they have to climb back into life. It's a long, long process. And support and open arms are always welcome. Patience—patience in listening and in not having expectations—is welcome and wonderful.

* Show up.


  1. I have to say... when I get irritated or annoyed with my almost 2 year old, I often think about you guys and Gabby. At least I have a healthy child who is here. I think your post was great. And something people need to know, since they may not know how to deal with this either. Hoping your day tomorrow is filled with warm memories of Gabby :) Happy 3rd Birthday to her!

  2. Hi Regan, I know it's been years and I have silently been following your journey. Your posts have left me with smiles and tears. Both you and Amy are inspirational. You have so much love. Know that I think of you guys often and that I send hugs telepathically. And to Amy - whom I have never met - from one mother to another - I send to you all the strength that I can possibly send. xo

  3. Thinking about your family and your loss. I am a bereaved mother of twin ICell girls Kylie and Kendall and this article is something I wish everyone could read. I will keep you all in my prayers. XO Kelly Moran

  4. Thank you for this, it's very helpful.
    With that, I say I'm so sorry. I want to hug you. I want to cry with you, and I do cry when I visit your blog. My life has been touched by your daughter Gabrielle, pretty much since you began this blog. She is so lucky to have you, Amy and Regan, as parents.