It appears the biggest question is, “What do I say to a grieving parent/sibling?”.
To that I’d answer, be mindful of how the family is grieving. Every grieving family gives clues as to whether or not their deceased loved one is someone they want to discuss. Don’t ever be afraid to flat out ask if a grieving parent or sibling would like to chat about their loved one. Most do. However, respect those who don’t. In that case, ask more detailed questions about how they are doing or leave them be if it’s obvious they aren’t ready to converse with people. You’ll find it can be a very nice conversation. We’re not looking to discuss our child’s death all the time. These are children who were loved, touched lives, lived! We want to share their memory, say their name. For us, we love to say Caleb. Bubba. Bub. To share stories of his life and have others listen is such a gift to us. Doing that let’s him live on through us. Our kids love to talk about him. We all do. NEVER change the subject or leave a conversation when a grieving parent shares a story or mentions their child’s life. It may feel a bit uncomfortable or awkward for some, but remember, you didn’t bury your child.
I personally am not a huge fan of the phrase, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”. There’s a couple of reasons. Yes, he is physically lost to us. His physical presence is no more, but we know he is with God and all he was and is is not lost. Second, the very wording of that phrase implies the loss is only mine, or my family’s. Grieving parents want to know that they aren’t the only ones who feel the void, who’s lives were touched and changed by their child’s life and death. Let us know that you care, that you’re affected, too. Share your stories. We find so much comfort knowing that we aren’t the only ones thinking of and remembering our child. Be patient with us.
Finally, listen. Listen, share, and listen some more. There are no instructions for this. It comes with being human. We have ears to hear and mouths to speak. Let them each do their part and you’ll be surprised how much of a difference you can make. Ultimately, if you find yourself at a loss for words, a simple, “This just really sucks. I’m so sorry. Would you like to chat?” sums things up nicely.