Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Inevitable Question

On a recent cruise, I sat with five other ladies for dinner. It was not until the last night when the inevitable question came up: “How many children do you have, Sandy?” That has to be the most dreaded question a bereaved parent must answer.

I find the best way to tackle it is to say, “I have one child who was killed in a car accident.” The reactions are typical. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” they murmur to me from around the table. And then they feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say next.

The one lady who asked me broke the ice and said, “I lost my son also, to cancer.” Ah, a kindred spirit. I looked into her eyes and we formed a bond that nothing could break. We chatted across the table for a few minutes about bereavement groups and how some parents find it difficult to deal with the death, no matter how long it has been. I also mentioned to the others that statistics show that in any given room, 20 percent of the parents will have lost a child. I found that stat to be very high and was sure others would also.

The lady next to me then says, “Can we talk about something more pleasant?” She had never had children and obviously couldn’t relate. And so we dropped the topic.

After dinner, the lady who lost her son came up to me and said, “They don’t understand and never will until it happens to them. Don’t they know we want to talk about them? It’s all we have left.” I agreed.

That is the No. 1 thing that bereaved parents want most…to be able to talk about their child in a comfortable setting. They don’t want the child to be forgotten, so they bring them up in conversations when appropriate. It shows others that the bereaved parents are not afraid and want to talk, and in the process, others, too, may have a story to tell, particularly if they knew the child. Now everyone will feel more comfortable talking about the child to the parents. Bereaved parents should tell others it is okay to bring up good memories, because that is all we have left.

The greatest give we can get from others is a conversation about our child, as though they mattered and were important not only to us, but to others. They lived and now we must live for them through our conversations, activities we do, and memorials we set up in their honor.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post. My name is Susan Salluce, :, and I work with Friends for Survival, a group dedicated to loss due to suicide. You are so right; people want to be able to say their child's name, share their experience, breathe life into their child's story. I wrote a fictional account of parental grief titled Out of Breath,,to address this in a fictional account. We need to keep talking. We need to keep sharing the story.