“How many kids do you have?”

Such an innocent question- something we say all the time when we meet someone new or run into an old friend who we haven’t seen for years.  It just flies off the tongue like, “How you doin’?”  And it’s perfectly acceptable.  We all want to know things like that.  It’s just that when you’ve lost a child, questions like that become a dreaded 800 pound gorilla waving at you whenever you approach someone who may not know your “situation”.

I was reminded of this point after reading a post by a fellow blogger today.  This had to be one of the most difficult things I had to deal with after losing my daughter.  What do you say to someone when they ask you that? Is it 3? 2?  If I say 2, I feel like I’m dishonoring my child and it hurts to discount her.  If I say 3 then I have to explain and I don’t want pity or to make things awkward.

This is what actually goes on when you ask me the simple question “How many kids do you have?”  If you are someone that I feel really comfortable with or I am feeling particularly confident, I might say, and this is rare as it is just easier to avoid it altogether in the casual meeting, “I had 3 – we had a daughter but she died shortly after birth and we have 2 sons who are 23 and 19.” But it usually doesn’t end there.

Usually what happens is that while I am saying “I have 2 boys who are 23 and 19”, inside my head and heart I am screaming “I also have a daughter and I want to tell you that but I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, I just need you to know that she existed and will always be my child just like my other children.  It doesn’t matter that it was 20 years ago, she is still a part of me.  I feel her every day and I think about her and wonder what she would be like and miss all those things that kids do as they grow up.  I want to be able to talk about her like I talk about my other kids and not feel like it will make you uncomfortable.”

It is amazing to me that even after all these years, this thing can still catch in my throat.  In a weird way, I see it as positive.  It shows that my daughter is still alive in me, that nothing has changed that, as I always believed it never could.    It is definitely a part of kind of grief that is different from any other and I think that I have become more comfortable with handling it.  I have my standard answers pretty well in place.  I guess it just settles in after awhile.

I hope that if you have lost a child, you are able to develop some responses of your own that will make it easier for you to get through those “gorilla” moments.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 02:50:13

    I have several friends that have lost children. Some of them in your situation say, “I have 3 children. Two living and one in heaven.”

    I’m not sure if this would work for you, but I thought it might help.

    I’m not surprised that it still affects you. Probably doesn’t show on the outside, but inside the wound is still there.
    Grace to you,
    Vince

    Reply

    • Cindyss
      Feb 22, 2012 @ 15:53:38

      Thank you Vince. I have found this whole parent thing to be so unique and amazing, something I could never have imagined until I experienced it. The connection between parent and child is something beyond explanation. Being a mother, I can only speak to how that feels of course and that bond is definitely something that defies human definition. I have lost others to whom I have been very close, my father being one, and this is so different.

      I would say that the wound becomes a scar that can act up at times and is always there to remind you of the pain but that is mingled with the love and connection so it is a mixed bag. The one thing that makes it so challenging when you lose a baby is that you don’t have bunch of photos and memories to recall to replace the sadness- you only have the anticipation of what was to be. That’s a topic for another blog I guess!

      Reply

  2. momshieb
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:18:47

    I think of you, and other friends who have lost children, every time I feel sad about my own growing up and moving on. I wish there was a better way to ask and to answer that question.

    Reply

    • Cindyss
      Feb 22, 2012 @ 15:28:48

      You know one thing I have gotten out of this “experience” though is a different kind of tolerance. Although it is hard for me to not be able to tell people or to sometimes still have to deal with odd responses, I understand that I can’t expect people to know how it feels or to be perfect and totally aware all the time of every word that comes out of their mouths. I do believe in sensitivity and consideration and treating someone as you would want to be treated but sometimes I think we get a bit too self centered and are too easily offended if someone says something that isn’t “aware”, even of the smallest thing. I don’t mean anything against people reacting and being upset, obviously I have myself, I have just learned that it is another hard part of the grieving journey, to learn to adapt to those things and not take it so hard. Life is messy and busy and most people only mean the best and it needs to be taken in that spirit. Helping people to feel more comfortable with how talk about death and grief and to support others is one of the main reasons why I decided to do this blog and other work I’m starting. I’m sure that you are very caring in how you talk to people!

      Reply

  3. Rebecca Carney - One Woman's Perspective
    Feb 22, 2012 @ 13:20:58

    Very true…

    Reply

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