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Carol's Columns

How Many Children Do You Say You Have?

What was once an easy question becomes very difficult after the death of a child. This is especially true in the first few years following our child's death. To answer you have one child when you once said two, not only feels like a betrayal to our deceased child (and ourselves) but is yet another reminder of how much life has changed. There is no right or wrong response. We must answer this question in a way that works for us.

I have learned over the years to protect myself when asked this. My response now completely depends on the circumstance. Many times I don't feel like dealing with the reaction to this well intentioned question when it is learned my child has died. Usually the response is shock, dismay and/or discomfort. Whatever it might be, I now choose when I want to share that my daughter has died. "I have a 38 year old son, Michel, and a daughter, Kristen, who died when she was seven."

Part of our healing process is to take care of our feelings and appreciate how new many of these feelings are for us. The grieving process can become easier if we check in with ourselves on a regular basis, try to identify our feelings and learn the best way to process them.

Our response may be new and surprising in many situations we face after our child's death. We are learning about ourselves in a new and extremely stressful situation. This is why we must protect ourselves. I might often respond to the question of how many children I have by saying, "I have one child, my son Michel." My daughter is buried in my heart and never far from me. I know I will always have two children. It doesn't matter to me if others do.