Have you wondered what to say to your friend or family member who just lost their child? Most people don’t know what to do. So here it is: 

“I’m so sorry.”

Immediately following the death of a child, this is all you need to say. There is no perfect phrase to ease the pain, but heartfelt sympathy and a hug is sometimes all that’s needed to show your condolences. Then, help! There are myriads of details to be taken care of after a child dies, and often the parents are in shock—dazed and in a heavy fog. They may not even know what their needs are. Create a list of specific things that might need to be done and ask them which of these things they would like you (or others) to do.

  • Help make phone calls to family and friends to inform them of the death. This can be very difficult for a grieving parent to do over and over again.
  • Pick up family or friends from airports, train stations, etc. who may be coming from out of town.
  • Create a program for the memorial service that can be given out to those who attend.
  • Obtain a guest book or make one. Encourage those who come to the service to sign in. Later, the parents will appreciate the reminder of who attended.
  • Provide flowers for the casket or tables at the service.
  • Take photos of the memorial service and/or graveside service.
  • Make a recording of the service.
  • Create a video of the child’s life.
  • Compile a collage of the child’s photos.
  • Help select clothing if the child is to be buried.
  • Help clean the house.
  • Ask if you can wash, iron, dry clean, or repair any clothing that family members are planning to wear to the service.
  • Wash the car.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Stay at the family’s home while they’re at the service. There have been rare cases when homes have been burglarized during a memorial service by someone who checked the time of the service in an obituary notice.
  • Provide food for family and guests.
  • Provide a gift certificate to a restaurant to cover the cost of a meal for the family so they don’t have to worry about meal preparation or clean-up for one evening.

More ideas to come.

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