For me, this was one of the most dreaded questions. I know I will always be a mom of 4, but when people ask me, they can make their way into further details. “How old are your kids?”, “What schools do they attend?” etc.
The kids’ question is a struggle for me. I began looking up other experiences from other Angel parents and how they handled it. Some parents played it on a case by case situation. If it was someone they would likely never see again, they would not include the child they had lost. If it was an acquaintance who they may see on just rare occasions, they would include their lost child in their number of kids and just hope that would satisfy the person asking.
I remember the first time I got asked “How many kids do you have?” question. I was getting my hair cut, and it’s a natural question for a mom to ask a mom to start chit chatting. At first I panicked, my heart started beating fast, because here was one of the most painful questions for me. I decided in that moment, I would always have the same answer, no matter what the situation. “I have 4 kids.” Of course, the conversation just got worse with more questions. I knew this was a great opportunity for me to begin practicing how to handle those question no matter how painful they would be. I called my husband in tears right after my appointment and said, “I just got the question.” His response, “if you are talking about the ‘how many kids’ question, I just got it today too.” Then he said Jamie, “We have 4 kids and we always will.”
My son deserved to be acknowledged, no matter what. My answer would ALWAYS be I have 4 children. When the conversation turned to how old my children are, Makenzie is 28, Delaney is 25, Nate is 14 and Luke would have been 16. Here is where the BIG issue comes in. The other person typically gets a little uncomfortable and needs to take a moment to absorb what you just said. They always say, “I am so sorry, I can’t even imagine.” (I would have reacted the same way). Sometimes they stop there, sometimes they press on…” how long ago did it happen? How did it happen?”. I think people are genuinely caring, but the magnitude of hearing about a loss of a child strikes a certain morbid curiosity.
Remember that this is your journey, and you have the right to tell as little or as much as you want. You have no obligation to tell anyone anything. It is 100% up to you.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. The right answer is the one that you decide fits best with your heart. The people who choose to add their lost child to their number, likely do it because it is too painful to mention them. That is okay, because like I said, this is a personal journey. We all grieve differently, sometimes our strategies change, and sometimes they are firmly in place and will never change. Whatever way you handle this question is your way and it is the right way for you at that time.
The one thing that helped me, although I still panic when it happens, was having a plan in place for these questions. Although, I admit it still hits hard the first time.
May God Bless you through your journey to healing.