Being a bereaved parent is lonely. We’ve been through what most people believe is one of the worst things anyone can experience. We are permanently, irrevocably changed. We’re trying to figure out who we are now that we aren’t the us of Before.
We are parents and always will be.
But when someone asks in casual conversation “How many children do you have?” what was once an easy question is now loaded with considerations.
I find myself doing quick calculations in that moment:
What is the likelihood I will ever see this person again?
Do I have any inkling of how they would respond to the full truth?
Is this just polite small talk?
If I don’t think I’ll see them again, if they seem uninterested, if this is standing-in-line just-passing-the-time talk, or if anything seems unsure, I usually keep things very simple.
“Three” I say. “Two boys and a girl.”
If this could the beginning of a longer or deeper relationship, the person seems genuinely interested and willing to stick around to talk awhile, or something just seems sympathetic about them, I’ll tell them the truth.
“Four” I’ll say. “Two boys and two girls, but our oldest girl passed away last year.”
But my calculations can be wrong.
just had this happen this morning. I had to quickly process what my relationship with that person might be in the future and decided on the “one child” answer. Though the answer is two.
This may be the hardest question we, who have lost a child, EVER have to answer… because you have to explain usually. And that just opens up a whole new can of emotions.
I have lost a child as well and i never know quite how to answer that question. I usually just say “two” and feel terribly that i’m not acknowledging their brother. Frankly, I don’t know how to do it.
In my own way, I understand and I’m so very sorry.
I understand your pain; I have chosen to answer the question with a simple “I have five, four living.” Because I am finally at the point where I no longer feel like it’s my responsibility to make others more comfortable by not honoring ALL my children. Oddly enough, people are generally very receptive and it has led to some incredibly intimate conversations. Even if with people I will never see again, I choose to believe those conversations have meaning, or will have some day.
No matter how you answer the question, though, it always hurts. I send love.