What do I say when someone asks, “Do you have children?”
I say, “My oldest is in LA living his dream as a filmmaker. My youngest died by suicide three years ago. He suffered from depression and addiction.”
Bring it up first. That gives others permission to talk about it. Because I talk about Charles often and openly, people aren’t afraid of the subject. So don’t let your fear of their reaction keep you from talking.
If you avoid talking about him for fear of being judged or not wanting to be a Debbie Downer (or David Downer) for mentioning a child that died, then you are not honoring your own history with your loved one. That child did not vanish from your family history. Alive or dead, that child was and still is part of your heart and your life. That will never change and you should not have to apologize for talking about your child.
Sure, there are some who might criticize behind your back. Do you really give a rat’s ass about that now? And shame on them if they do.
Ask a friend to communicate to others that you want to talk about your child. They are dying to know what to do, to know what you want. A couple from my support group, called a friend and told her to let everyone know they wanted visitors, they did want to talk about their daughter and wanted others to do the same. They made one request. That no one ask about how their daughter killed herself. So everyone knew the boundaries and had directions which put people at more at ease.
People hate to feel helpless. So realize your friends think they have to say that special phrase or do some special thing to “fix” how you feel. They think they are not qualified to give you what you need. Like you need some special magic fairy dust or the perfect quote. And yeah, some magic fairy dust would be great if it existed.
Know that people will say the wrong thing sometimes. Let it go because they don’t mean to. Just be glad they made the effort to say anything. Did you know before this happened what phrases were appropriate and which ones were not?
There is no fixing this and you have to let friends know their presence and friendship is what you need. You should be with other people and you need to talk. It’s isolating enough without feeling ostracized because things are so different for you now. Your child deserves to be remembered and that happens with conversation.