My daughter, Casey, passed away March of 2016. Some days feel like it happened yesterday and other days feel like it happened so long ago. Overall, I think my husband and I are coping and doing as well as to be expected. There are a few things that have been harder than expected, and I hope that by sharing some of these points that maybe some of you reading this will be able to help any grieving families you encounter.
A common question when any adults meet is “Do you have any kids?” I have asked this question myself many times. Now this hits me when I am least expecting it. I don’t know how to answer this anymore. I don’t know this person, and I do not feel like getting into a long explanation, but at the same time I am not about to say no. Saying no feels like I am disrespecting and negating the amazing life my daughter had. So sometimes I may just say “yes” and leave at that. Other times I am so flustered by the question, that after stumbling over my words I may say something to the effect of “I did”. The latter is followed by the pity face and the automated “I’m sorry” (I’ll talk about that more in the next paragraph). If I say yes and leave it at that, there is typically the follow up question, “How old are they?” I stumbled through this response with a variety of things as well. Another parent that has lost a child gave me the most beautiful response that I plan to use moving forward “Forever 9”. Then typically, that response also leads to the face and “I’m sorry”.
“I’m sorry.” It’s such a simple statement, but it’s actually so much more. After hearing that, the expected response is “it’s okay.” It’s not okay! We lost our baby; it will never be okay. But society and manners make me tell you that is it okay. Please pay really close attention to what I am about to tell you. If someone tells you that they have lost a child (or loved one) DO NOT reply with “I’m sorry”, instead say something like “What was his/her name?” It’s so simple, but it will make a HUGE difference for the person you ask. Instead of feeling guilty for telling you that it’s okay that their child is gone, now they get to share their child’s name. Saying and hearing our children’s names is so special to us.
Don’t automatically look sad, or stuck not knowing how to respond. Just give them a door to share if they want and let them know you care. Depending on how you meet, how much time there is, and how they are doing at that moment, just sharing the name may be all they can handle, or they may want to tell you a little about their loved one. Regardless, they will be so gratefully to you for not making them say it’s okay that their child is gone.