Do You Have Any Children?

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 who’s 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 to not have the looks of pity and the stammering as the one on the receiving end of the story doesn’t know what to say. Awkward. 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 son but he passed away’. This usually leads to me having to tell my story, and depending how I feel 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?’


11 thoughts on “Do You Have Any Children?

  1. Like u I consider if I will get to know the person or if it’s just somebody I won’t see again . Mine is diffrent I never got to meet my Angel Babies and people don’t ask u how often u were pregnant (unless u are pregnant at the time)

    I say tell them about Finley , tell them u have a beautiful little Boy who died .

    Some will give u the look , somewhere between pity and wishing they never asked but there are nice people out there who will say I’m sorry and tell me about ur son .
    I hope that u will only meet people like that x

  2. Hugs to you. This is one of the worst parts. My husband and I struggled with this for a while. But finally, we decided to always mention our son if asked. It was too painful to not mention our son. And so often, those people we wouldn’t meet again would accept a simple answer of “two” and now “three” and I wouldn’t have to elaborate. But my answer is not yours. You’re doing what’s right for you–what helps you survive. Your love for Finley will never diminish based on your answer to this question–and neither will his love for you. Take care of you:)

  3. Hi their,
    I just want you to know I think you are an amazing person, with such strength & courage. To be able to share these emotions with the world is definitely something else. God bless you & your family & I wish you a life filled with fullness & much happiness x

  4. when I’m asked, I say I have 4 angels. If I am feeling stronger I say – One of them a son at 3 1/2 months old, the other a 20 weeker pregnancy loss.

    If I don’t think I’ll see the person again, I feel quite comfortable with saying, i’m sorry I’m not strong enough to tell their story today, but if we meet again maybe I will be.

    I hate this rolls of people’s tongues. It’s almost you’re measured as a person depending if you have children or not. I never ask this question since I lost my earlier babies, I learned that some people have a past of loss that really is a wound that is easily opened.

  5. I pretty much answer just like you – depends on who I am talking to. I hate that question too. It’s gotten easier with time, and I usually say 2 kids and leave it at that. I still feel a bit guilty though. I also hate the awkward stares.

  6. When asked, I always say 6. If my 5 living children are all with me and this person does a head count & asks where the other child is, I say my other son died. Some say I’m sorry and nothing more and a few seem to care and may ask more.

    Sometimes all my kids aren’t with me and someone will ask their ages. When I get to my son, I say he’d be 2 but he died. I just am not able to not mention Noah along with my other kids, it’s too painful. But I realize everyone is different and there is no wrong way to handle a tough question like this.

  7. I know what you mean, you want to share your story but most people only ask the question to understand what your life is like… maybe they should be asking “are you busy taking care of children” because that’s more closely related to what they’d like to know the answer to…

    I’m sorry this question is asked of you and you aren’t sure how to answer. It’s a personal thing. I think you should be able to tell them about Finley and share his story. But I also know how hard that must be for you.

  8. This question is so hard. I am fortunate to have a living child now and have found it’s almost harder with him here. Because if I say that I do have children and just say my son Finn, I feel that I’m lying about Cale and not including him. Each and every situation is different – and you’re right that it can cause so much heartache. I’m very careful in what I ask people and how I word things now – I never want to cause undue heartache to another grieving mama.

  9. it gets worse when you have a subsequent pregnancy. EVERYONE wants to know if this is your first. I have struggled so many times with this question.

    I’m always honest but sometimes that hurts everyone..

  10. Here from the future via Time Warp Tuesday! This post really resonates with me, almost word for word. And yes, those questions are so hard and uncomfortable. Five years after my last loss, I still find it hard to answer and it totally depends on the audience, our relationship (or lack there of) and how I am feeling in the moment. Sometimes I share and sometimes I don’t and I know that’s okay. We all have to do what works for us on our journeys as bereaved mothers. Thank you for sharing. Heading back to the future to read the rest of and comment on your new post. :)

  11. Jenn

    I lost my eldest boy in the military during my second trimester. Had he lived,Tristan would be a young man of 20 years old. I think about him every day. My second son Keith is 17 and my second miracld baby as he and I almost died. I lost 4 more children in the first trimester before our Samuel age 4 made his appearance in drama fashion during a scheduled c-section where he had stopped breathing so yet another miracle boy. I had genetic issues that the military didn’t understand and/or didn’t feel the need to educate me. I don’t know what the future holds for you, but I do know that Finley felt and knew your love on Earth ad he does in heaven.

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