All the answers that came in from two weeks ago addressed the question: “When you meet someone new, how do you answer the question how many children do you have?” The response was overwhelming in one direction as you will soon read.
Before you start, I just want to give you all a bit of information about the Saturday message since we have added new people. This message works a bit differently than other email groups. The Saturday Message goes to four different sites around the TAPS website. People answer from all four sites. Therefore, you will notice that there various answers that you may not have read as I combine all the answers the following week into one. I hope this answers a few questions that I have had.
Some survivors have written thank you notes to those who have contributed and they are included in the first part of this week’s message. The responses to the question come next. In this way all of you can see everything that has come through my desk in the past two weeks. I hope this is clear. Please feel free to ask questions at any time.
Speaking of questions, I am always looking for requests from survivors who would like to hear the opinions of others. I do edit both the questions and the answers to keep the responses short, but most of the words are those of the survivors themselves. Please send not only replies, but questions that you would like to see in the following weeks as well. Together, we not only help one another, but keep the message fresh. Thanks in advance.
This week’s question should bring in some interesting answers. Here it is: As you travel this grief journey what has been the most helpful to you? I look forward to your replies and will leave you now to go on and read this week’s responses.
Thank You Messages
I thank all of you for your courage to survive and to write about it. I am slowly coming back. I find comfort in painting (watercolor). My son always encouraged it and when I sit with brush in hand, I lovingly remember how much I still love him.
Carol and fellow TAPS survivors: I really appreciate the discussion of memory loss on Saturday and the responses that everyone shared. It's nice to know that I'm not the only person who is having memory problems. Thank you all for sharing. Hugs to all of you,
Wow Carol, I just want to say thank you for all the responses. I hated the answers and feel bad for all my fellow Gold Star parents. I was told by a friend who lost her son a year before mine, that my memory would get screwed up. Sometimes I feel like I have had a stroke or something. My son left me 22 months ago. I'm still living day to day. In answer to the other question, I still say I have 5 sons. I still want to say IS not WAS Loves not Loves. Thanks everyone for sharing. It helps me to know my grief is not so out of the ordinary.
Responses to the Question
It is six years out and I have just become comfortable with my answer to this question. I have two children. If someone then asks about them I inform them that my son is an engineer in Virginia and my daughter is the angel that looks over me. My reasoning: I gave birth to two children. I raised two children. I love two biological children. I have two children I am very proud of. When I talk to family I expand the family even more. To my family, I have two sons and a daughter. Confused? The second son is the man who planned to be my son-in-law. My daughter had impeccable taste. When we received the news that there no survivors (Brad was sitting next to me on the couch at the time), Brad turned to Tom and me and made a commitment. Even though he is not bound to us by law, he wanted to be part of our family when he proposed to Beth. One of the most beautiful things he said was that when he fell in love with Beth it wasn't just her it was her commitment/ dedication/ belief in family and that he had never felt such a strong family bond and he was drawn to that bond. Six years later, he is still part of our life. Unfortunately we live on different sides of this country, so we don't see each other as often as we would like but we talk at least every 2-3 weeks, we send emails and IM on Facebook. And when we are both on the same side of the country, we find the time to come together at least for dinner.
When someone asks me, "How many children do you have?" I respond, "I have two." If the conversation goes further than that and they ask "Where do they live and what do they do for a living?" I simply say, "My daughter lives and works in Las Vegas and my son was in the Army and now he is in heaven; he was killed in action 16 July 2011." I try not to "dump" on people and go into a long conversation. If they want more information I will give it to them, i.e. "How was he killed and where?" I never know what people are going to say. I never make it a political statement, nor do I try to justify the war. I simply tell people I am very proud of my son and his sacrifice for our country. Usually the conversation does not last long because people feel uncomfortable talking about "death".
I tell them 2 boys and a girl. I also say I lost my oldest son, a Navy man. He is and always will be a part of me. Never forgotten, nor left out. I know he is still part of the family, always will be. Love, support, and hugs to all of you. This e-mail has been a God send to me. Together, we are all a family now. One that was started by a shared loss of a very special person in all of our lives.
When anyone asks me or my husband how many children we have, we do not hesitate to reply. We include our son Alex since he is a big part of us and we still feel his presence even though he is no longer physically with us.
Whenever someone asks me how many children do you have, I respond that I have 3 but that I lost one in the military but he is always with me.
In answer to this weeks "What do you say when someone you just meet asks you how many children do you have?" I tell them the truth that I have three children since as far as I'm concerned even though Blake is not here in body he will always be in my heart and a large part of who I am. It depends on who I'm talking to and if I'm having one of my better days as to if I go any further with what happened or not. Some days I can talk about it and some days I can't.
When asked how many children I have I say "My son took his life after 2 tours of Iraq. He had PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury and had applied for disability from the VA, but did not tell any friends or family and after waiting 5 months he just couldn't take it anymore. I tell you this not for sympathy but to let you know that 28 soldiers are committing suicide daily and we are losing more to suicide than have been killed in the Iraq/Afghanistan Wars. My only child was my son and now he is in his Eternal Home and out of pain and he always lives in my heart.
Vivian and I always say we have five. How could we let Louis out?
If someone asks, I always say I have two children. If they ask more questions I tell them that my daughter lives in town and my son was killed in Afghanistan and is now deployed to Heaven.
I always say I have two children. Whether I elaborate or not depends on how strong I'm feeling. I hate the lack of control I have over my tears : (
When asked how many children do I have, I always respond with one. If they ask any further questions, I then tell them he was killed in Iraq in 2007. Then I will tell them he left me with a beautiful grandson.
To answer this last question about how many children I have--I gave birth to three children and I still have three children. Ryan's death does not mean he is not counted as a family member anymore. I will always have three children. I have one child that lives in TX, one that lives in CO, and one that lives in my heart. I take every opportunity to tell Ryan's story to whoever will listen and there are many. By telling his story, it keeps him alive. Peace to all.