“To know one person who has lost is to know ONE PERSON who has lost”
I’ve heard this saying a lot over the years. Interestingly, it’s never been in the context of loss but instead autism*. Over time, I’ve wondered if the same statement could apply to loss. Turns out that for me, it does.
Since losing Alexander, I’ve read many a post titled something like “What Not To Say To a Person That Has Lost” and I’ve never been able to relate to one thing they’ve said. Not one**. Unfortunately, it made me feel even more alone. Why were my feelings so different? Over time, I realized that they were not speaking for all those that had lost. They were not speaking for me.
I’ve refrained from writing a post like this because I don’t want to make people feel like they had to second guess themselves. Especially around those that have not spoken for themselves like myself. I hope that I’ve accomplished this except maybe that one post where I expressed my wonder at how people can call The Kids twins when they were born triplets.
I feel like as a culture we have limited what others can and can’t say, the terms that can and can’t be used all in the name of political correctness. Sometimes I feel like I can’t say anything at all, even to those in the Loss Community. I would hate to make someone else feel that way.
However, the time has come for me to deal with an issue. One that I don’t want to have a hold on my life anymore. I’ve known that I’ve been lying about this fact since the day Alexander died but I didn’t think that it was hurting anyone. Now I realize that moving forward it might hurt The Kids and so I want to do something about it.
It came to light recently when I heard The Kids giving the wrong answer to the most common question asked by people about the loss of Alexander and I realized that they’d gotten the answer from me…
“How old was your son when he died?”
What I hear when you ask this is: “Can you tell me how long your son lived so that I can determine if he lived long enough to justify your loss and/or his regular inclusion in your daily life”. And, I think that you’re thinking:
“If he was too young then it doesn’t hurt me, his Mother as much”,
“If he was born premature then his death was justified”,
“If he was only alive for nine days then he doesn’t really count”…
Make no mistake about it, you don’t really say any of this. Nor do you imply it. But, that’s what I hear.
So, for the past 5.5 years, I have lied. Almost all the time. I’ve given an answer that I think that you want to or need to hear in order to make you think that he lived long enough to matter. Answers like:
“he wasn’t sick at all, it wasn’t supposed to end this way”,
and my most common response and the one that The Kids now say “two months”.
The truth is that he did live long enough to matter and, he wasn’t sick at all and, it wasn’t supposed to end this way but he didn’t live two months. He lived nine days.
It’s this last answer and the fact that I lie about it that I have a problem with.
I don’t know why I have feel the need to lie. I mean, anyone that reads this blog can do the math. The only people that I’m fooling are The Kids and I don’t want them to think that nine days isn’t long enough. Because, while it isn’t long enough (anything short of a lifetime is too short), Alexander’s life lasted nine days long and no matter what I or anyone else says, his life mattered.
So, from now on when I’m asked “How old was your son when he died” I’ll stand tall and proudly say “Nine beautiful days”.
Do You Ever Hear Something Else?
— Journeys of The Zoo (@zoojourneys) July 3, 2015
* Replace “who has lost” with “with autism”.
** I do agree with any questions that are intended to consciously hurt a person dealing with the loss of a child, however, I’ve only encountered that once in 5.5 years.