Don’t Be Afraid to Say My Son’s Name
I am going to say something right now that will make you all uncomfortable. Are you ready?
My baby died sixteen months ago.
That's hard to read, isn't it? It's even harder when someone actually says that to you, face to face. No one likes to talk to someone after they tell you their baby died. It's uncomfortable. There's an immediate awkward silence. What do you say, right? What is the right response to that?
I know. I get it. I used to feel like that, too. So awkward! But now whenever someone tells me that they had a child who died, I don't feel awkward anymore. I know what to say. I know because now I am that parent, too, and I know the things that feel good to hear.
First of all, you cannot go wrong with saying you are sorry for my loss. That's heartfelt, and that's a sincere thing to say. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. is something that always helps to heal my heart, just a little bit. I usually smile and say, Thank you and I mean it. Thank you for being sorry that I lost my son, because yes, it is a sad thing and I'm comforted in knowing that you acknowledge that.
I like to be asked, What was your child's name? Oh, how I love to say my child's name out loud! I don't get the chance to say his name much anymore, and no one really says his name because he is no longer here. I get that. But do you know that I say his name to myself often, out loud, like when I'm driving in the car by myself I will just randomly say his name. I love the sound of his name, and I miss hearing his name. You can never go wrong by asking me what my child's name was, or by saying my child's name to me. I chose his name carefully and with much consideration, and hearing it said out loud is music to my ears.
Ask me something about my child. What is his birthday? How did you choose his name? What did he look like? Those are questions that give me joy to talk about. I only had my son for six days, so I don't have too many memories to share. He's not making any new memories, so these little things are all that I have to talk about, and it feels so good to talk about him.
Do you know that for the sake of other people's feelings I refrain from bringing up my child in conversation? Even if something reminds me of him, I keep it to myself. It's true. I do this because I know bringing him up is an instant mood killer for most people. At the mention of his name, people get a little stiff and uncomfortable right away. Bringing up a child who has died, especially an infant, is taboo. So I won't do it. But you should know know that bringing up my child or sharing a thought or a memory that you have of my child will never, ever make my current happy mood suddenly turn into a sad one. You will not be reminding me of my child because I am always thinking of my child - always! So by mentioning him to me, what you will be doing is letting me know that you are thinking of my child, too. And that means the world to me! Nothing makes my heart happier than to know that my child has not been forgotten.
One last thing. My child is no longer here to make new memories, so forgive me if I talk about the old memories. It's all I have. Even if you have heard me tell a story about my child 20 times before...please, just listen again, and smile.
Did you know that a parent's number one fear is that as time passes their child will be forgotten? It's true. In fact, after my son passed away, the feeling to keep him with me was so strong that I had his name tattooed on the inside of my left forearm, along with a heart and the lines of his last heartbeat. I did this not only for me so that I could physically see his name every day, but also so my friends and family will always see his name, too, and will be reminded of him, always. With the tattoo, it also gives me the opportunity to share my son's story to strangers who might ask about it. They will see the tattoo and might ask, Oh, who is Aaron? and then I can say, Aaron is my son. -- it feels so good to say those words out loud.
I love saying his name. I love hearing his name. I love calling him my son. He was here for a very short time on this earth, but he will always be my son. When you mention his name to me, when you ask about him and when you let me know that you remember him, a light goes on inside of me, and it warms my heart. And a warm heart is always a good feeling.