Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Randy, me, Richard, and my deceased youngest child, Charles

After Charles killed himself, my husband and I had to decide how to answer questions about the number of children we had, and Richard had to figure out how to answer the sibling question. Each of us had our own answers–none of which were wrong or the same as one another.

How each member of our family answers that question is a personal choice.

Immediately, I answered, “I raised two children. The oldest, Richard, is living his dream as a filmmaker in LA. And my youngest died by suicide.” I say it to anyone asks whether it’s in a grocery store, a networking event, or on an airplane.

My husband answered differently. At first, he said he had two children and left things at that, the emotions just too strong to say more. A little later, he said, “I have two boys. One is in California. The other in heaven.”

He says it depends on the situation. In a meeting or business situation with many sitting around a table, he only offers as much information as asked as he doesn’t want all the attention on him.

So if they ask, he says he has two children. If they ask, “What are they doing now?” He does tell them the oldest is a film editor in LA and the youngest died and leaves it at that and usually they don’t ask more. About seventy five percent of the time outside a business situation, he says Charles died by suicide. It depends on his mood, who asks, where it is, and the situation. And it took him years to arrive at this.

At first, he was not entirely comfortable with how straightforward I was when we were together but he never criticized, understood I needed to say it, accepted it and got used to it. After all, he knows me.

Now Richard. He said when he would be out at night and someone would ask, “Do you have brothers or sisters?” He would respond with, “No.” He said then someone might ask, “So you’re an only child, then?” to which he responded, “No, I’m not an only child.”

The person on the other side of that conversation must have thought he was the biggest mystery man. Imagine how confused they must have been. I couldn’t help but bust out laughing because Charles would have had a field day with that interaction.

He confides in close friends, but for Richard, a twenty-six-year-old single guy in Los Angeles, it’s too heavy a topic to broach in a bar or on a first date.

So what’s the right response? Whatever works for you. The only advice I have to give is to think about how you would answer the question so you don’t feel panicked by the question and just respect how other family members answer it. As you can see, all of us answer it differently. And I’m OK with that.

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

6 thoughts on “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

  1. I really love this post because everyone is different. You’ve been straight forward since the beginning which is admirable. I don’t know how I’d be. I’ve known so many people that have taken their lives or lost their lives due to overdose. I know when a loved one passes I’m in shock first and I think for men it may last a little bit longer to process all of the emotions. You’ve helped so many people. I don’t know if people know how to respond to suicide either. It’s much tougher to react to than my Uncle who just passed died from alzheimer’s disease. I know I would say I was sorry and give you a big long hug. Being there for someone is the most important thing no matter what. Richard and Charles’s dad it’s okay no matter what you say. Your friends will be there for you. Some will be less sympathetic and unless you know the guy or gal well you don’t have to reveal the whole story. Anne, your an inspiration in the fact that you started a blog, grew the blog, wrote a book, and do public speaking. It’s greatly needed. I couldn’t find the 2018 suicide rate from the CDC, but I did find the 2017 and it went from 14-14.1 per hundred thousand to 14.42 per 100,000. This is the year the CDC guidelines for opiates went into full effect. I don’t know if it has anything to do with it, but it was 1,100 and some more suicides in one year. Keep fighting the fight.

    1. Thank you so much CHRIS. It helps knowing you knew charles and having you as part of our tribe. Trying to grow the subscriber base because as that’s happened outreach has grown and more lives saved. It’s been a journey and the important thing has been to respect where each family member is in their grief and accept that.

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