My Numbers Don’t Add Up

By Becca Kohn, Sammi’s Mom

How many children do you have? For some, It’s a conversation piece, just small talk, an innocent inquiry about another person’s life. But for others, it’s a very loaded question filled with lots of emotion and anxiety.

When I’m asked this, I often think to myself, Which answer do you want? Because my numbers don’t add up. Are you asking how many times I’ve been pregnant? Because that number is 5. Are you asking how many living children I have? That answer is 2. Are you asking how many times I’ve given birth? Because that number is 3. That math probably seems wrong to you. It’s a difficult equation and it’s complicated.

I’ve come to learn that if I’m asked that specific question, the person asking is not in the same child loss club as me. Parents who have lost children don’t typically ask that question. It’s too personal and complicated. Most people who ask that question are not prepared to hear or talk about my child who is no longer on this earth.

I used to take great offense to people when they asked me that question. It used to send me into a complete panic attack. I didn’t have the right words or the emotional power to say them. I didn’t want to break down in tears in front of the lady scanning my groceries simply because she was trying to create some friendly small talk. I would freeze, I would stumble over my words, and my answer never felt good or accurate.

You see, like any parent, I like to talk about my children. ALL of them. But other people don’t like to talk about my dead child. It makes them uncomfortable to know that children too can die. It quickly shifts a conversation from a light chat to an emotional and uncomfortable topic.

After many occasions where I had to stumble through this conversation I have finally come to a solution that doesn’t send me into a complete tailspin.

I have learned to read the situation faster and provide an answer that’s appropriate to the conversation. I have had more practice answering honestly and directly without my head spinning out of control. Unfortunately, I had to learn all of those things when my child died.

It never gets any easier being a bereaved parent. But my love for my daughter gives me strength, and in the last 3 years I’ve navigated without her, that strength has fueled my growth in these conversations with strangers. She has taught me so many things in her short life on earth and continues to teach me everyday while I navigate this world without her in it. She gives me courage to enter into uncomfortable conversations and not have a complete breakdown when others are trying to ask what seems like a simple question.

But I want to acknowledge for you that it’s not a simple question at all. My numbers don’t add up, and that is complicated.

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