This article was originally published in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of the Share newsletter.
By Maggie Stockmann
How many kids do you have? Is she your oldest?
Such a simple question with such complicated answers. All that goes into deciding how to answer – Will I see this person again? Are we in public? Am I strong enough to tell the truth? Am I strong enough to give the quick happy answer? Compromise?
No, she is our second…we lost her brother 2 years ago.
Yes, she is our oldest at home. Yes, she is our first daughter. Simply “Yes.”
And yet, my promise to my son is that I will never forget, never diminish, always speak up for the lost babies. So why is it so hard to give a simple… “No, she is our second. Her brother watches over her from heaven.” Is it because the happiness people are showing is quickly replaced by sadness in their eyes? Is it difficult because I strive to make all around me comfortable. If I say, “No,” then others feel the need to comment or question. Will I then take the time to comfort them and make it easier?
If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died — you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and that is a great gift.”
~ Elizabeth Edwards July 3, 1949 – December 7, 2010.
And yet again, I feel so honored when Frankie is remembered by my family and friends. I am blessed to have a great friend whose first daughter share a birthday with my son. Each year when we celebrate Mia’s birthday with cake and ice cream, my dear friend remembers to call and offer her own “Happy Birthday” to me for my son. I will forever have a connection with her on this day. So why do I struggle to help others remember him?
The question that gives me a long pause lately…When are you going to have number 2? All I want to say is “We did on January 29th. Her name is Molly.” But I don’t want to become someone who people are afraid to talk to, afraid to share their happy baby news, afraid to include in events for fear of upsetting or saying the wrong thing. I don’t want to feel like I did shortly after his birth – an oddity that others wanted to help move on. I do not want to give the impression that I am stuck grieving my son. I miss him each and everyday but I am able to find joy in life again. I love my daughter and cherish every day with her as I know all too well that they are a true blessing.
In cases like this, is there ever a right thing to say? Isn’t everything a Catch- 22? How do you answer this question?