This came up in a bereaved parents’ support group and I thought it was a great question: “When you meet someone for the first time, do you tell them about your missing child?”
It’s one of those practical life skills bereaved parents have to figure out.
I remember when it dawned on me a few months after Dominic left us that I would meet people who wouldn’t know he was part of my story unless I told them.
It was a devastating thought.
I had no idea how I would face the first time it happened.
Since then I’ve developed a script and guidelines, but it can still be awkward.
If the person I meet is going to be part of a ongoing relationship or partnership then I tell them fairly soon about Dominic. Depending on who they are, how I sense they may be able to deal with it and if I feel comfortable enough I may give more or fewer details. The main thing I try to communicate in sharing is that I will behave in ways they might not understand without the context of child loss. I’m not looking for sympathy or special consideration but “bereaved parent” is as much a part of my identity as “married”.
If I am attending a social function and it’s a casual “meet and greet” then I won’t mention Dominic in terms of his death unless the conversation lends itself to that revelation. No need to burden acquaintances with my story or run the risk of changing a celebratory mood to a sad one.
I always say I have four children-because I do. But I don’t have to give details. If the person insists I tell them more about my children it’s fairly easy to steer the conversation toward a detail or two about my living children without the person noticing it doesn’t add up to four.
I make sure to tell health professionals about Dominic because the stress, physical, emotional and mental changes grief has wrought are integral to my treatment plan. I’ve had a couple of new doctors since Dom ran ahead and received different responses from them when I shared. One seemed to understand the impact of child loss while another just continued typing without any acknowledgement of what I revealed.
My son’s death is not a dirty secret.
I don’t have to hide it to protect others.
But it is also not a “poor me” card that I fling on the table of relationships trying to manipulate others into showing me special consideration.
I want people to know Dominic.
So I share.
I don’t want people to only think of him in terms of his death.
So sometimes I don’t.