It’s Been YEARS, When Should I Mention My Missing Child?

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.

dominic at gray haven

So I share.

I don’t want people to only think of him in terms of his death.

So sometimes I don’t.

It depends.

 

 

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

7 thoughts on “It’s Been YEARS, When Should I Mention My Missing Child?”

  1. It’s never an easy question to answer, is it? The mere question brings up a host of emotions, not only for us but for those who hear the answer. We instantly have to assess the situation to determine whether or not the person can handle our answer. And that is only one small portion of the lives we now live. No wonder we parents whose children have died are more susceptible to illness, physical tiredness, emotional weariness. It’s like we walk through an emotional minefield a lot of times.

    Great post, as always.

    ~Becky

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  2. This is a very helpful post Melanie. I lost my son in December last year and sometimes I struggle to tell people, and yes I don’t want people to only think of him in terms of his death.
    Thank you for sharing. Love Ally xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with your ‘how to respond’, it depends.
    And on the topic of telling your doctor who is treating you –
    I had mentioned to a nurse practitioner on a visit to convenient care when I had pneumonia a couple months ago that my blood pressure does increase quite a bit whenever I go into a medical facility (my pressure was reading a bit high and she wanted to immediately start me on BP meds). She questioned me on it and I told her this happens since my young daughter had cancer and that she died from the grueling treatments, that I get to feeling rather anxious now at any medical facility as it brings back so much and increases my heartache missing her. She talked further then about my pneumonia and referred me to two doctors for further care. On the front sheet I was to hand the other two it stated under “Symptoms,” “Death of child.” That was the only symptom listed by her on the form. The two doctors who saw me next both asked me to give them the details on how my daughter died and how her cancer had presented itself. I thought all this was rather odd and felt I was not being taken seriously of any medical problem I was having. I am also told that this pops up on screen now when I am seen so is in my permanent record and flagged. They give me no explanation when I ask them if that is really necessary and I want it taken off of there. Why do they do this?

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    1. I understand that you could interpret this as dismissive but I think it is a wise thing. I have an autoimmune disease that is most definitely impacted by the fact I am a bereaved parent. At certain times of year I am much more likely to experience flares and I’m glad my doctors are aware of that. They are less likely to ask me to “suck it up” and more likely to treat me aggressively with meds and other therapies. I don’t know where you live, but I suspect there are ways to have things purged from your record. You might need to ask a medical legal professional or if you have a friend in the medical profession they might be able to tell you how. I’m sorry it distresses you. ❤

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  4. I’m with you, it all depends. But, I’m a man. Us men just just don’t get asked the kids questions. It’s like, how’s work going? (Now I get tell them I retired) What do you do? Do you golf? Do you watch boxing? Do you see the game? Even in church Sunday school in front of our growing class, I didn’t feel like mentioning children. So I didn’t. I didn’t feel like saying two daughters: one forever 20 and the other 25. I just skipped, no one pressed the question. I’ve made myself canned answers for different situations. Yup, it all depends.

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  5. Melanie. May God Bless you! 😊

    Well done. I am ‘new reader’ to your blog; ‘old veteran’ to the club. Lost my youngest son, Luke , 13 years ago. He was 14, an unexpected / misdiagnosed genetic disorder took his life at that young, full of life, age.

    This topic of wrestling with when/if to speak of your dead child is truly awkward for every bereaved parent … and sibling of the child.

    My daughter, middle child, older sibling to Luke said this, through tears as she lay on his bed, ‘I don’t know how to be two, we were always three!’ Like our Identity being ‘married’, ‘bereaved parent’, all in the family need to learn how to ‘be’ in the face of one less family member.

    Like you, I muddled through those conversations, never looking to manipulate or steal the show; always to have Luke be known and to come to grips with my new identity. Each time was like trying on a shoe that was a half-suze to small.

    Alway I say ‘We have seven children’ or ‘I birthed three’ or ‘I have three children’. Luke is my son.

    And you are absolutely correct – it is a rare person (usually only those of friend quality) that counts the ‘notations’ against the total and then asks ‘what about #3’?

    God Bless you for your diligent sharing in this blog; your candidness and truths are precious.

    Deb

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  6. Thanks Melanie for this post. I still find myself shying away from situations where I might have to answer questions about children. We are almost to the one year mark. Since Charlie was my only child, it is challenging to figure out what to say. I think my answer will be “one child but he is deceased” and then quickly ask them a question to redirect the conversation. Hopefully I won’t start crying and the awkwardness can be minimized. Talking about this at the retreat was helpful as is your post today.

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