When the Questions are Impossible

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our children   watermarkIt’s been twenty months since our Eve’s stillbirth, and I still choke when I find myself confronted with one of those impossible questions.  You know the ones — the questions that make you avoid small talk with new acquaintances, the ones for which there is no easy answer.

This evening, I found myself facing down another one of these questions again at a party.  I introduced myself and our rainbow son to the group, and suddenly there it was.

“Your baby is so sweet . . . is he your first?”

“No,” I managed, and then — I choked.  It quite literally felt like all the words that I might say to illuminate our family bottled up tight in my throat and I could not manage so squeeze a single one of them free.  My husband had to finish for me, finish explaining why we both do and do not have another child.

How is it that, twenty months later, I still flinch and falter in these situations?

I remember, in the early months of grief and my subsequent pregnancy, rehearsing my reply to a fellow loss mother, trying to convince myself that I had the courage to boldly say, “I have one living child.”

I thought that by now, surely I would have been comfortable enough to offer the truth with the same confident love I feel for our daughter.

And yet, I don’t.

The part of me that longs to find meaning and purpose in my pain wants to know why this is the case.  Why am I not better at this yet?  Is there something wrong with me, with my grief?

But I don’t think that this is an issue of not being “good enough” or having something “wrong.”

I think the reason that I struggle with these impossible questions is that, simply and horribly — it is really hard to be the mother of a dead child.

I would never give up my sweet Eve, never trade her brief presence in my life for any respite from the pain of her absence.  All of this discomfort is a worthwhile price to pay for having known her.

But no matter how worthwhile, this pain is still pain.  It’s still hard, still uncomfortable.  I don’t know if it will ever be easy to introduce new acquaintances to the gaping hole in our lives and hearts that represents our daughter. 

And — that’s okay.

I’ll say it again, because I need to hear it again — it’s okay if it feels scary and painful and awkward to speak about my dead baby.  It’s okay for it to feel like a risk, like vulnerability, because it is

Although this truth does not make it any easier for me to navigate those impossible questions at this point in my grief journey, it is reassuring to remember that this difficulty is not a bad thing.  It is merely one more piece of the multifaceted puzzle that is babyloss and grief that continues to smart even years on.

What are your impossible questions/situations/etc.?  How do you navigate them?


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Beth About Beth

Beth Morey is the mixed media artist behind Epiphany Art Studio . Her soulful and whimsical creations are born out of the griefs, joys, and not-knowings of life. She is also the founder of Made , an online course exploring the intersection of faith and art, and the author of the creative healing workbook, Life After Eating Disorder. Beth loves meeting new friends through her blog , where she writes about faith, creativity, and life after stillbirth. She lives in Montana with the Best Husband Ever, their rainbow son, and their three naughty dogs. You can find Beth at Epiphany Art Studio — www.epiphanyartstudio.etsy.com or at her blog, www.bethmorey.com. You can also see her work at
Life After Eating Disorder -- http://www.amazon.com/Life-After-Eating-Disorder-Have/dp/1478105453/

Comments

  1. Beth, yet again, you speak to me, soul to soul. Thank you for this post. I recently blogged about the same thing. At 8 months out, I desperately want to share my daughter’s story but find myself “choking” in those situations in which strangers ask. Thank you for reminding me that that isn’t an indication of my love or pride for my daughter.

    • No, you are absolutely right — your choking does not indicate your love or pride for your sweet girl. Thanks, Kim. Hugs.

  2. My impossible question is, “How are you?”

  3. Job interviews have been hardest for me. I work from home and there’s the typical question from potential employers as to “why” I don’t have my youngest daughter in daycare (my son died of an illness possibly contracted at a daycare…that she had the week before he passed). That’s the point where I usually lose it. And since I work in a female-dominated field (medical transcription) it usually ends up with my interviewer crying on the other end of the phone, too. Guilt trips abound. I either don’t get the job because of my obvious emotional pain and distraction…or I DO get the job and have the most lenient, understanding supervisors ever. I’m fortunate enough (for the time being) to have the latter.

    My kids are still getting over the sting of every year in school with introductory questions of how many siblings do you have…and the explanation that goes along with it. I’ve learned to give a warning statement to the teachers before school even starts.

    *hugs* and strength! **sorry for the long reply**

    • That’s so hard…especially with your kids having to answer those get-to-know-you questions. Grief upon grief. Hugs.

  4. You and I share our impossible question(s). I don’t want to make the person asking feel bad, but more importantly I refuse to lie – to deny even for an instant that Ian IS my son. My mom once told me that one day I’d be comfortable just saying “No” and moving on with the conversation. That day is not here, not do I ever anticipate its arrival. I’m always kind in my response because I know they aren’t anticipating to be smacked in the face with real life, however, if someone is willing to ask the question, they should also be willing to hear the answer. THEIR discomfort with MY truth simply isn’t MY problem. I have enough of those.

    • Too true, Jody! I love what you said here: “if someone is willing to ask the question, they should also be willing to hear the answer.” Well, that’s true. And as you said, it’s not our responsibility how they react or feel when confronted with the truth. Just our responsibility to say it with kindness and as best we can manage. Thank you for this.

      • venetia says:

        Awesome post, Beth, and good points, Jody. I agree with you for the most part that “if someone is willing to ask the question, they should also be willing to hear the answer”. For me the problem is when people ask the question, they are merely making polite conversation and aren’t anticipating a deep conversation….and often they don’t really want one. I have found that many times, even the most calm or cheerful honest answer about how many children I have stops that casual conversation in its tracks. That said, I don’t care. I answer how I want to answer that person on that day. I talk about my son every chance I get because it makes me feel good. Hugs!

    • Alyssa L. says:

      I lost my son less than two months ago, but I have thought a lot about this, trying to prepare myself for how to respond to questions of, “Do you have any children?” And (hopefully, painfully one day) “How many children do you have?”

      I think it’s important to be honest if we can. Because people don’t think when they ask that question so casually without wanting to hear a real answer. Maybe if we help them be aware, we can stop them from unthinkingly causing another bereaved mother or father that pain.

  5. at least you said no, this is not our first baby! hats off to you on that! this saturday, after my first baby loss grief group of all things, I went into a store. the guy, sweet as can be, asked how many children I had. I said two. two! I have three. the minute I said it I wanted to change my answer. how could I not have counted my baby girl? I really wanted to say, no, actually, I have three kids. but it didn’t seem the sort of question where you can take back your answer, phone a friend, and try again.

    • I’ve done the same, Cheli, and felt the same stab in the gut — it’s an instinctive reply, and it hurts so much. But it doesn’t mean you forgot your sweet girl or anything like that. It’s just so hard to navigate these questions.

  6. Since William was our first (and only) child, its the “Do you have children” question that always makes me flinch. And every time I look the person in the eye and say “that’s a difficult question to answer. we lost our preemie son.” Only once did I respond with “we have no living children” – and i felt sick for days. For me, I need to speak up about William, to validate his existance and to break the silence that surrounds infant death. it isn’t the right way for everyone, but its what i need to do.

  7. In the past 23 months, I have met several grieving mothers. I never expected I would be one of them. Our “baby” was 16yrs. old, our firstborn, the first of our seven children. I understand grief, and I understand all the difficult questions. My faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present God, and in the truth of His word, has sustained me through the darkest time in my life. I refuse to believe that my son is dead. He died, yes. But he is very much alive; alive in Heaven, where some day we, too, will have a glorious reunion. I ache and hurt with all of you who have lost a child, but I also rejoice in the hope that awaits us. Walking this journey with others who understand has brought great comfort. I highly recommend http://www.GriefShare.org and http://www.CompassionateFriends.org as well for support. ((hugs)) to all of you grieving mommas.

  8. your heart is so beautiful, so full and so rich.

    i am honoured to walk this journey with you, dear friend.

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