1. Don't be an ass, don't insert a but after your condolences. Try this: "I am so incredibly sorry that this happened. I just don't know what to say."
2. Do not ever say or imply that my son's death was "for the best". Period. Ever. If Johnny had lived he likely would have been neurologically devastated. Guess what? I love my children regardless of their abilities. We would have loved and treasured him regardless of his potential for accomplishment. Say this instead, "You must be devastated. Would you like to talk about it?"
3. Do not tell us that "god needed another angel". Even if the person you are speaking to is religious, telling someone who has just lost their child that somehow it's because "god" needed them more than their parents did is naive at best, and insulting at worst. Try this instead, "I'm going to be thinking about you. I wish there were more I could do."
4. Don't tell us when we should be done grieving. You don't get to tell me when I "should" do anything related to Johnny's death. Instead, say this "I know that this pain will never go away. Anytime you would like to talk about Johnny, I would love to listen."
5. Don't tell us that if you lost a child that you wouldn't be able to go on. What choice do you think I had? Mere hours after my son died, I had to get on a plane....to take care of my daughter. When I came home, did I want to crawl into bed and die myself? Yes. Was it an option? No. Because someone had to be there, not only for my living children, but for my husband. Say this instead, "I can't imagine how you must be feeling. I am so very very sorry."
6. Don't compare grief. Losing your parent, your friend, your sister, your grandmother or your beloved beagle is not the same as losing a child. (Yes, these are all examples of grief comparison that I have heard. Just say this, "There is nothing as painful as losing someone you love. I am so sorry that this happened to you."
7. Don't try to make my grief about you. You do not need to tell me how hard it is for YOU that I'm grieving. You do not need to tell me that my son's death was hard for your kids or your husband or your best friend. While you may be trying to show me that you're empathize with my feelings, all it does is put me in the position of having to comfort you. I don't have the energy for that. Try this instead, "My entire family has been thinking about you and how difficult this must be. Please know that we care about you and want to help if we can."
8. Don't be afraid to say my son's name. There isn't a moment that goes by that I am not thinking about him. Knowing that other people still think about him is a good thing. If you are thinking of Johnny say, "I was thinking about your little guy the other day, if you ever want to talk about him, I would love to listen."
9. Do not say "At least you have Maizy." Please go look at your children. Report back to me which one of them is disposable. Of course, I am grateful that I have my daughter. I am beyond grateful that I have all of my children. That does not for one second take away from my pain at losing Johnny. Say this instead, "How are the kids? Do you think they might like to go to the park? Would you like me to come by and hang out with them for a little while so that you could take a nap?"
10. Don't try to imply that I, or any other parent who has lost a child is responsible for the death of their child. Every single one of us lives with guilt and shame every day even if it is totally undeserved. We don't need any help with that. This is not the time to say, "This is why I <insert did surrogacy domestically, don't vaccinate, used xyz product, etc> If you need to congratulate yourself on what an amazing parent you are and reassure yourself that what happened to me will never happen to you- Do it on your own time. Say this instead: "I am so incredibly sorry."