How Many Children?

How Many Children Do You Have?

We all are asked this simple question throughout our lives.  Before losing our child/children, it was no problem. Just an every day question that we proudly answered.  But after our loss, it becomes a torment.  We are rushed with different feelings.  This is one question that still gives me trouble to this day.  I don’t want to leave out our son who will always be our son.  But, at the same time, I may not feel it’s the time to bring up such a painful subject by mentioning him.  For me, I take each time as it comes.  I know in my heart Jason is still very much our son, but the current situation may not be a time to bring up such a heavy topic.  It always leads to more questions and I may not be up for talking about it.

Don’t feel guilty for not bringing up your child.  It matters only in your heart.  The following is a question to Dear Abby.  If you would look to offer suggestions or insight, please feel free to contact us.

Mom struggles with counting deceased son among living….

Dear Abby:
I am hoping you can help me with this delicate problem. Last year, our youngest son died. He was born with chromosome abnormalities, much like Down syndrome, though much rarer. We also have another son, who is 7. Our dilemma: How do we respond when asked, “How many children do you have?” I always find this difficult to answer because I feel a necessity to include our youngest as our child, even though he has passed away. Some years ago, you responded to another reader who asked the very same question. Could you possibly print it again, as I feel it would be helpful not only to us, but also to others in the same situation.


North Vancouver, B.C.


Dear Cathy:
When I was asked that question in April 1995, I responded that neglecting to mention a child (or children) lost in death would in no way diminish their importance, but unless the parents were prepared to answer the inevitable follow-up questions about the tragic loss, they should count only the living children when asked how many children they have.


Another response:
Dear Abby:
I have never written to you before, but I had to write immediately when I read your answer to “Mourning in Fresno,” whose 25-year-old son had died. She wondered what to say when people asked her how many children she had, and you suggested she count only the living one.
If “Mourning” had lost her only child, would your answer have been the same? For her to say, “I have no children” would not only deny her son’s life, it would also deny what she had been for half of her life

— a mother to that child.

A bereaved parent would feel guilty and disloyal failing to count the child who has died. “Mourning” would probably feel better if she replied, “I raised two sons.” Then she could add a few remarks about her living son, steering the conversation in that direction. Eventually, she will feel more comfortable talking about the son who has died.
In the two years since our daughter’s death, the wonderful people at the Compassionate Friends have helped us to face this question and many others.

Sandee McAlpine