10 ways you can help a bereaved parent 
1, Please continue to talk about our child. Saying his name is music to our ears. When you tell us a story you remember about him/her, you are giving us a huge gift. With that story or never before seen photo you unearth, you give us a little piece of our child back

2. Please give us compassion but not pity. No one wants to be pitied but we certainly need grace, love and compassion

3. Please be a story holder for us. We need to tell our stories. Over and over again sometimes. Let us talk about our children without changing the subject or shushing us. You see, we can never make new memories with these lost children so we are sometimes guilty of telling you a story we've already told you (maybe numerous times)

4. Please don't tell us you couldn't bear it if it happened to you. The truth is we didn't think we could bear it either but we had no choice. And hearing you say that makes us feel like you're saying "I love my child too much to let them die". We did too but our child DID die and we somehow feel like we failed for letting that awful thing happen

5. Please don't forget our kids. And let us know you haven't. Don't be afraid to say you wish they were here at family gatherings, class reunions, weddings, holidays, special occasions, graduations. When you don't mention them, it feels like you've forgotten them. So don't be afraid you will make us sad or remind us of our loss by mentioning them Trust me, we haven't forgotten and to know you miss them too lightens our heavy heart

6. When our loss is fresh, don't avoid us because you don't know what to say. Just say you're sorry. Just say this must be so very hard. Just say I can't imagine the pain you're in. Just say I love you and I love (d)your child who died (use their name, of course). Don't offer platitudes. Don't give pat answers or try to stop us from talking about our pain. Don't run away from us

7. Send us a note or an email or text on days you know will be hard. Their birthday. Their death day. Mother's Day. Father's Day. The first day of school. It helps to know YOU know those days are excruciating

8. Don't be hurt or offended if we don't call you back when you call to check on us in the early days. Telephone calls take energy we often don't have. If you call, make it clear you aren't expecting a return call. Email us instead. We can respond in the middle of the night or whenever we have the energy

9. Saying "let me know if you need anything " is a lame way to try to help. Rare is the griever who is going to call and ask for something from you. It gets you off the hook for having attempted to help but it really isn't helpful. Instead just do something or offer to help in a specific way. Can I drive your out of town relatives to the airport? Can I pick your kids up from school or take them to soccer practice? Can I bring a meal by? Can I mow your grass?

10. Don't forget us as soon as the funeral is over. Your life goes back to normal but ours is changed forever. Check on us. Send us a card. Ask us to go for a walk or to lunch.

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10 years 
10 things I’ve learned about grief and losing a child in the 10 years since Ryan’s death

1) There is no other loss like that of a child. And it doesn’t matter the age of the child. Whether they were in utero, a senior citizen or somewhere in between. It’s the hardest loss a person will ever experience. Worse than losing your parents, your spouse, your sibling, your precious dog, your grandparent….

2) You never “get over it”. Life goes on and time softens the pain but time does NOT heal all wounds. This wound is too deep and ragged to ever heal. We bereaved parents incorporate our loss into the new us and we learn to live again but we never get over it.

3) You can feel two emotions at the same time. In the early days of our loss, I didn’t think I would ever have fun again. I couldn’t imagine laughing or doing anything joyful ever again. But eventually I did laugh again and I did have fun again. But those emotions don’t replace my feelings of loss and grief; they just ride shotgun with the sadness. One book described it like going to a party with a toothache.

4) Losing a child strips away all the veneers we develop over the years. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, after our child dies, we become very “real”. “ by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

5) Your circle of friends changes. Many friends are there for you through the worst of it. Some disappear because it’s just too hard – you remind them that if it can happen to you, it can happen to anyone and you just aren’t much fun to be around for a really long time. But new friends, really good ones, appear. Some of them have also lost a child and thus you share a special bond – they “get it” like no one else.

6) Your life is bifurcated into “before and after”. I often refer to the days before Ryan died as “my old life”. My new life is good but different. And not as good as it would be if my boy hadn’t died.

7) People mean well but their words still hurt. It wasn’t meant to be. It didn’t make me a better person. God didn’t need him more than I do. Everything DOESN’T happen for a reason. Yes, I’m strong but I don’t have a choice and it’s a strength born of enormous pain.

8) Even when jealousy isn’t a natural emotion, it’s hard to not envy friends and total strangers, for that matter, of their intact families. Sometimes it takes all I have to be with families whose children are all still alive and thriving. I no longer read Christmas letters. And while I’m happy for you, just know your boasting of your amazing children wounds me like being stabbed with a hot poker. Sometime when you’re reciting where your children are and what they are doing with their beautiful, full lives, I simply walk away because it hurts too badly to hear it.

9) Time is a funny beast. It’s the only thing that brings even a modicum of relief from the suffering in the early days, but it also takes you farther away from the last time you saw your child. The loss is yesterday and forever, all at the same time. And time does continue to zoom by. Realizing it’s been 10 years since Ryan died is unbelievable in most ways.

10) We human beings are stronger and more resilient than we can fathom. I never believed we would survive this loss. Losing Ryan was truly the worst thing that could have happened to our family. He was the bright light of the Dickerson clan. He got the best parts of both his dad and me. He was the joy of our lives. The damage to our family has been severe and oh so painful. Wounds deeper than any of you know. But we have survived. All three of us, as amazing as that is.

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I will always remember Ryan 
This is a sad time and hopefully this site will help us all keep Ryan in our thoughts. Losing Ryan was like losing a piece of me. We were so alike in so many ways, but he was way more together than I am. His ability to wait until the last minute and pull it off was a special gift and he was a black belt master at it and I was an amateur. His spirit, drive and humor make it easy for people to love Ryan. I was looking forward to being his father in-law someday :) Ryan will always have a special place in our family and Lynn, Ronny D and Ross will always be part of our family and we think about them often. Fond memories that will always last.
Chris Murphy

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