If things go wrong: to parents

iStock_85471263_XXXLARGEWrite, write, write

If your child dies during study abroad, you have our deepest sympathy.

You also have a narrow time window to get at the truth of what happened.

If possible, at least in the short term, ask someone you trust to field phone calls.

Keep paper and pen ready at all times. Write down everything, including dates and times, names, and who said what.

All questions are valid. All feelings are valid, too. Immediately after phone contacts and meetings, make sure to review your notes to add in questions, uncertainties, and hunches.

It will take a long time to process what has happened to your child, and these first notes—horrible as they are—will become your ally. They will be the keepers of your earliest impressions, and your future self will understand them in a way that gradually makes sense.