Supporting the Grieving Parents of a Teenager

Ottawa, Ohio: Pomeroy Cemetery, Frankie McKenzie 1886-89 5/25/10

          For years, I received a weekly feed from those funny folks at the Darwin Awards, ‘A Chronicle of Enterprising Demises honoring those who improve the species…by accidentally removing themselves from it!’

           I removed myself from their list when the eighteen -year-old son of a dear friend ‘won’.  I’d gone to his funeral.  I saw the anguish he left behind.  That was eleven years ago.  For his parents and his friends, the pain remains acute.

         What do you say to the parent of a teenager who accidentally kills himself in a pointless, embarrassing – to his survivors – manner?  Didi Lorillard’s June 13 column, ‘Modern Manners + Etiquette: Talking About Death and Loss’ on, suggests the best thing you can do is listen, be present – precisely what you don’t want to do.

           As always, dear friend Didi offers practical dos and don’ts, what to say and not.  I never expected to need this type of advice.  I wish I’d read it eleven years ago.