Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Lisa: Do you have any children?

This post comes from Lisa's blog Dear Finley. Thanks to Lisa for allowing us to publish this here also…

When your child has died, sometimes even the most ordinary of circumstances can cause an ache in your heart like no other.

Imagine - you're the new wife at coffee morning, the new person in the office, joining a gym or a club, anything in which you would encounter people that you've never met before, but in which you would be required to socialise.

My name is Jane, what's yours?

Nice to meet you Lisa.

Oh you have an interesting accent, where are you from?

How come you moved to England of all places from somewhere as amazing as Canada?

Are you married?

Do you have any children?

And there it is. The awkward question that makes any mother whose child has died stop in her tracks. It is only natural that people ask this question, I used to ask it all of the time without a thought.

It never would have crossed my mind that the answer could be causing an internal struggle for the one who would have to answer.

But a struggle is what it is.

Normally, the person asking is going for light conversation, and therefore to hear a heart-wrenching story about how your child died is not what was expected.

But as the parent, you feel like you want to be honest - to share your child and be proud of your child, like any other parent in the world.

It really is a dilemma and I usually consider who my audience is before answering.

If it is somebody I'm not likely to ever meet again, I might just say 'no' and leave it at that. It's easier not to have the looks of pity and the stammering as the one on the receiving end of the story doesn't know what to say. But saying no leaves me so full of guilt, as though I'm denying that my son ever existed. As though I'm denying that my heart yearns for him every second of every day. I find myself apologising to him in my head for not being strong enough.

On the other hand, if I'm speaking to somebody who I will be likely to meet again, who will likely get to know me over time, I try to be honest. I will probably say something along the lines of 'I have a sone but he passed away.' This usually leads to me having to tell my story, and depending how I will at the time will depend on how much I elaborate on what happened.

As a mother, I hate that I have to make a decision about whether or not to talk about my son. But as a bereaved mother, I find that this is all a part of my new normal. A normal that I wasn't aware of before but that I will now never escape.

If you are a bereaved parent, how do you answer the question 'Do you have any children?' or 'How many children do you have?'


  1. Thank you so much Lisa for allowing us to share this here. This is the question I absolutely dread everytime I am in company. I just wait for it coming. I also answer depending on audience. However, there is such a sense of guilt there when you say no. I tend to say now I had two little girls who were still born. Some people don't respond, some people say a token sentence and quickly move on and then others ask more. I always have the internal struggle you mention and you can see people's faces go a bit funny as you struggle and pause before you answer. Can be very awkward. So hard xxx

  2. So far I have just been saying, I had 2 sons who were very premature and died. I just can't bring myself to say no! I hate it in away because often it upsets people but they will always be my sons and I want to the world to know that they were real people too.

  3. Thanks for posting this here. It's a horrible question that it so difficult to answer. At the moment, being lucky enough to be pregnant again, I am getting 'is this your first?'. I tend to say 'I had a son but he died jsut before he was born'. Some people don't know what to say of course, but it's also led to some interesting conversations where people have shared with me the stories of the babies they've lost. It's always an honour when other bereaved mothers share with me. xx

  4. This question is one I find easier to answer than I ever thought I would, I simply say I had a son, and he died. Its hard but people tend to pause and say Im so sorry and I will say thankyou, but dont be sorry its just one of those awfully sad things that happened. I don't feel that i could ever deny him by saying no no matter who I am talking to however I do appreciate that I am outspoken and it can be easier for me than for others; I recently was asked to do a small shield of my life and I included Isaac in my introduction of myself I said - "Its a very sad thing that happened but it would be sadder had he never been mine, even if it was just for a moment" I am very proud of my husband who has also felt that he could answer in a similar way. I often feel as a society we are so closed down that this is why people dont know what to say in such situations xxxx