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 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.