I was attending a planning session for a fundraiser to benefit the
Children's Cancer Association last night and of course told them about my
daughter. This inevitably led to tears (not mine surprisingly) and
multiple "I'm so sorry's" and lots of awkwardness. Have you found a good
response to "I'm sorry"? Cause thank you is not cutting it for me.
It's like they expect me to say more and I just don't know what to say.
This is what I call: An Awkward Moment. But these Awkward Moments happen all the time. Nearly everyone has the same reaction upon hearing about a child's death: shock, sadness, disbelief. But after a year or so, it becomes difficult to hear every time. Not so difficult that we will ignore that s/he existed when you ask us how many children we have, but difficult in the tedious and somewhat depressing sense. And then we thank you for your sympathy, which is appropriate, but then the sadness and head-shaking in disbelief go on for another moment and we feel almost as if we need to comfort you and tell you it's okay.
When I tell people my son died, the usual (and completely appropriate) response is extreme apology, offered within hushed tones.
"Oh I am so sorry. How AWFUL for you and your family."
This is kind, this is meaningful. But guess what? My little girl is right next to me listening to HOW AWFUL IT IS FOR US. And I gesture to her and smile.
Then I address the person who is offering the condolences.
"Yes, it is every parent's worst nightmare come true. But it is also just our family history. It happened. Her brother's name was Elijah, and she remembers him."
Almost always, this evokes some happy memory or delivery of information about Elijah-the-living, that my daughter (now age 7) feels compelled to share.
If my daughter is not around, I pretty much say thank you and remind people that we like to remember him. It makes us feel better.
For us, I guess part of it is the de-sensitization process; the Coping With The Reality, tragic or not.
If the words 'my dead son' continue to evoke ONLY tragedy, then my daughter has far too much to lose.