Do you have children?

It’s an innocent question. It’s a question that seems to only require a mere ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Yet it’s a question that some of us dread.

The first time it’s asked after your child dies, can leave you floundering for an answer. An easy answer may be to say ‘no’ or only count your living children. This question is normally asked to share some personal information, but when it’s asked of a grieving parent this information becomes more intimate and more emotional.

I’ve spent a lot of time, probably too much time, worrying about making other people feel bad when they naively ask if I have children. A simple ‘no’ and the conversation moves on. I’ve avoided them wishing they hadn’t asked. It’s difficult not to think this way, but doing this leaves a horrible heaviness in my heart. Regardless of who I’m talking to, I’ve denied the existence of my daughter.

I mentioned in a previous post about recently actually giving an honest answer for the first time to a group of new students. Normally if students ask me if I have any children I say ‘no’ and quickly move the subject on, while telling myself it’s not important that they know and trying to ignore the guilty feeling of not acknowledging Sofia. However, this time I told them simply that I did but she died. An inevitable awkward moment of silence followed, but the overwhelming feeling I had was a sense of lightness that I’d given an honest answer. And a couple of students gave very sincere responses which felt good to receive.

I don’t know if responding to this question will ever get easier, but now when someone asks me I remember how it felt to answer honestly.


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