Dad Accuses Mom of 'Forgetting' Dead Son Because She Tells People She Has 2 Kids Instead of 3

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portraits on wall
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There's no playbook for losing a child. No matter what parents do, losing a child is something they will grapple with the rest of their days, and that includes interacting with other people.

For one mom who lost her eldest son, dealing with other parents has been among one of the more challenging aspects of grief, one that she reacts to on a case-by-case basis. But the way she interacted with one mom has her husband feeling like she's trying to forget their son completely. 

  • The mom begins explaining that her eldest son, Josh, was killed in a boating accident when he was 6. 

    Her surviving son Luke was 4 (now 12) and they've since had a little girl Ava, now 4.

    "I would bring Ava to mommy and me type classes and she also did a gymnastics class and we just started karate," the mom wrote of the daily routines she and her family had before the health crisis. "While hanging out, it is normal to chit chat with the other parents. Because my boys were closer in age, everyone at Luke's activities knew about Josh and it was never talked about. With Ava the normal parent chit chat sometimes leads to people asking if Ava is our only."

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  • The mom's answers to how many kids she has varies -- sometimes she says two and sometimes she says three. It really depends. 

    "Back in January Ava had a playdate with a friend from our library group," she wrote. "I went over her house and I called my husband to remind him to pick Luke up from a friends house by noon. The other mom asked how old Luke was and when I told her that he was 12 she commented on the age difference. Then she asked if Luke had a hard time adjusting from being an only to having a younger sibling. I thought about bringing up Josh but I didn't want to make things awkward so I just said, 'That wasn't an issue for us. Luke wanted a younger sibling and loves having Ava around.'"

  • A few weeks later the mom visited her house, where there are pictures of Josh on the wall. 

    "She saw one picture and asked who that was," the mom wrote. "I said that it was my oldest son. She said she thought I only had Luke and Ava and I told her that Josh passed away and is hard for me to talk about still. She was understanding and supportive but my husband overheard and after she left he accused me of trying to wipe away all memories of Josh. I told him I wasn't trying to do that but in the past when I have casually brought up Josh's death it always makes the other person uncomfortable."

  • The mom swears she never had any bad intentions by not mentioning Josh. 

    "I never said that Luke was an only child before Ava," she clarified. "I said that Luke didn't have any jealousy surrounding Ava's birth and was happy to have a little sibling. That was true. My husband said a lie by omission is still a lie and was very upset with me for trying to pretend that Josh never existed. That is not what I am trying to do. We got into a big argument over it and he ended up venting to his parents who still think I am the [expletive] over this. Did I handle the situation poorly?"

  • People assured the mom that she really didn't do anything wrong. 

    "First of all, I'm so sorry for your loss," one user wrote. "Love and hugs to you. I totally understand. You don't owe an explanation to anyone and you don't have to tell your life story to everyone you meet. It's a heavy subject to unpack every single time someone you meet asks you how many kids you have. Your response sounds totally normal to me."

  • Others assured her that she wasn't trying to forget, but rather protect herself. 

    "Explaining what happened to Josh time and again to new people any time the conversation turns to family and the 'Oh, what grades are your kids in? Wait I thought you said you had 3 kids?' would be akin to pulling the scab off every time and wounding yourself," empathized another. "Your husband should be understanding to how constantly mentioning and talking about a deceased child isn't good for your mental health. You're not forgetting you have a child who passed away, you're protecting yourself by not ALWAYS bringing it up."

  • And a few others noted that neither she nor her husband are in the "wrong" here. 

    "I understand both you and your husband," wrote in another reader. "I think you could do a better job of explaining your feelings to your husband, that it still hurts so much to talk about Josh with strangers or acquaintances. Talk about your feelings, not about how it affects other people's feelings. Your husband also of course needs to be accepting of how you cope. He gets to decide how he grieves; he doesn't get to decide how you grieve. But from what you describe, it sounds like he's struggling with grief."

    Both mom and dad sound like they have grief to contend with, and we hope they get the support they need to get through this.