Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive,Inappropriate) Questions

I was utterly amazed at the questions people plied me with not long after Dominic’s accident.

They ranged from digging for details about what happened (when we ourselves were still unsure) to ridiculous requests for when I’d be returning to my previous responsibilities in a local ministry.

Since then, many of my bereaved parent friends have shared even more questions that have been lobbed at them across tables, across rooms and in the grocery store.

Recently there was a post in our group that generated so many excellent answers to these kinds of questions, I asked permission to reprint them here (without names, of course!).

So here they are, good answers to hard (or inappropriate or just plain ridiculous) questions:

When asked to do something the week or month or even year after your child left:

  • No.  (It’s a complete sentence.  You do not have to give an explanation.)
  • Thank you for asking me.  I won’t be able to participate this time.
  • I’m so sorry.  This is a hard time of year for me and I just can’t do it.
  • Since my son’s accident, I don’t do well at holidays (or summer, or birthday month).  I can’t take on any extra responsibilities right now.
  • I’m sorry, we will be out of town. (If you really WILL be out of town.)

When asked about the details of your child’s death:

  • Why do you ask? (Stops them nearly every time.)
  • That’s an uncomfortable question that I’d rather not answer.
  • Does it matter?
  • We choose not to talk about his/her death and prefer to talk about his/her life.  Would you like to know something about him/her?
  • I prefer not to relive that trauma, thank you.

When asked, “How are you?”:

  • About as well as you would imagine given the circumstances.
  • Managing to do what must be done but very sad my son (or daughter) is no longer here with me.
  • Trying hard to put the pieces back together.  It’s a struggle every day.
  • Our family is loving one another through the hardest thing we’ve ever experienced.
  • How are YOU?  (Most won’t even notice you didn’t answer and will launch into their own discourse.)

When asked if you think you’re “back to normal” or “over it”:

  • No.  (It’s a complete sentence, see above.)
  • I’ll never be over my child. I’m not over any of my children.  How could I be?
  • My life has been shattered.  I can’t even find all the pieces much less assemble them into whatever normal used to be.
  • I don’t remember what “normal” is.
  • It’s a daily adjustment that I will be making for the rest of my life.

When asked anything at all that seems insensitive, inappropriate or just downright nosey:

  • I’m so sorry, I need to go.  Bye!
  • I can’t talk about that now.
  • Say nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Until they change the subject for you.
  • How are you?  Your children?  (Or any other question back at them-ignoring theirs)

I am obligated (by my profession of faith) to be as kind and polite as I can be but I am not obligated to answer every question someone asks.  

I’ve found that having some of these pat answers in my pocket helps.  Many of them are good for just about any question that may come my way.  

I try to deflect, demur or redirect.  

But when that fails I’m just as likely to tell the truth, which is often not at all what the person really wants to hear.  

And then they are left scrambling for a way out of a conversation I never wanted to have in the first place. 

Which is fine with me.  

silent with heart

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.

14 thoughts on “Good Answers to Hard (Insensitive,Inappropriate) Questions”

  1. There have been times when I definitely should have said no. My mother was placed in a nursing home shortly after my daughter died. Mother had been living with my sister for a few years. Before that, she was a third of my family. I was informed that my “shift” would be each day after work. I also took on other responsibilities. It’s a long story.

    Other times I wanted to say no, but didn’t. Some of those times it actually helped me in my grief. A friend enlisted me to help prepare food for a homeless meal. Until then, I could barely function in the kitchen which had become, in my mind, my daughter’s territory. Preparing the food, decorating the cookies, finally I felt “at home” in the kitchen. I have posted so many times to ask me about her life, not about her death. Still one formerly close family member asked me for details about her death just last year. I don’t plan to spend much time with her ever again. I shared this blog to my page. Keep writing. Maybe they’ll listen to you. Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very good. I am of grieving Mother who has lost 2 children a 15 yr old in 1985 and an adult child just recently June 7th 2020 he was 45. He has a wife and 2 young boys 11 and 15. It has been so awful and theirs days when I do not feel like going on. I partner for 24 yrs says it’s not ok to not be ok.
    I told him I will never be ok. He also thinks I should be strong in front of my sons boys and partner in life and I have been but I’m dying little by little inside. How do we go on?
    You have answered a lot of what I have been approached with. I usually do not answer and avoid those people .
    Sometimes I am angry and rude.


  3. Only 4 months fresh, this is so helpful. While I understand people’s curiosity for details when a child passes away, sometimes it’s just none of their business. Small talk is so difficult for me right now! I’m finding mine and my husbands support system has gotten much smaller as the time keeps moving….people get busy and move on. My favorite question came from a longtime friend of mine….”what was Ryan’s favorite Thanksgiving food?” Simple, thoughtful….filled my heart with joy for a promt to want to know about HIM. Thank you for this post. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve become a expert at deflection. I use it all the time. I even wrote a blog on it: deflection is my self protection. I have one mother who told me she uses this line when asked when she is going to move on, or like questions, “that hasn’t been my experience. Is it yours?” Kind of mean I think, but she said it works. Hugs.


    1. Me too! One thing I’ve found is so easy and almost always works is to just ignore the question and ask one of them. I think 99% of folks never even notice and simply turn to their favorite subject-themselves!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head right here Melanie! 99% of folks are just “making conversation” and really don’t notice your answer. Therefore, if it’s someone that is just an acquaintance that asks how I’m doing, I usually just say “I’m fine!” and they smile and go their way. If it’s a friend that asks, usually I can discern by the look in their eyes if they really want to know how I’m doing or if they are just asking in HOPES that I will say “I’m fine”. It’s a little exhausting at times. I think I will start using one of the answers you suggest and just say “How are YOU doing??” Thanks for all you do to help other grieving parents Melanie! I know you are grieving yourself and I’m praying for you. God bless you!

        Liked by 3 people

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