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How Many Kids Do You Have? For a Bereaved Parent There is No Right or Wrong Way to Answer

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As a medically complex mom and a bereaved mom, one of my greatest comforts is connecting with another parent about our shared experiences and deep emotions. Although, recently, while reading comments on one of my blog posts, I was reminded that many of us differ in how we manage our grief. I think it is so important to remember that there is no right or wrong when dealing with a loss of this magnitude.

In this particular blog post, I wrote about the balancing act of honoring June while enjoying my life as it is right now. I also mentioned the feelings of betrayal I have experienced as life goes on without my daughter. One example I gave was when I do not always include June when a stranger asks me how many children I have.

Nothing will ever change the fact that I have three kids. I wake up every morning knowing one is gone, and I go to bed each night feeling like someone is missing. However, when I meet someone for the first time, I may say, “I have two boys” if they ask about my kids.

I answer it that way not to shield the person who asked me the question but to protect myself. I don’t always have the emotional energy to get into it at the park with my boys. And even if I do, sometimes I want to take cues from George and Peter on what they need at that moment. Do they want my attention, or do they want me to talk about June to this stranger?

I may not want to talk about June’s death in the elevator with someone I probably will never see again. How will this person react? Will they say something that aggravates me, like, “everything happens for a reason?” I don’t know because I don’t know them. In order to protect myself from the stranger's possibly unhelpful comment, I may not bring June up. Do you see what I mean? It’s about self-preservation.

All that being said, it stings a little every time I leave June out. It’s another “no-good-choices” choice I have to make. And saying, “I have two boys,” sometimes feels like the best solution. I am working on letting go of feelings of betrayal because I know in my heart that June is okay with it when I feel I need to leave her out. That’s why I mentioned it in the post about balancing grief and joy.

There are a lot of parents who will always include their child who died, no matter what. And I think that is great. I used to think I would always do that too. I am not advocating that any bereaved parent do anything that doesn’t feel good for them and their family. There is no right or wrong here. I hope that other bereaved parents can respect others' decisions to do what feels right for them when answering this question. And that may change year to year, day to day, hour by hour - and that’s okay.

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