Even after eleven years, people are still uncomfortable when talking to me as a father. A week after Father's Day, someone at my church came up to me and said he owed me an apology. I couldn't think of anything he could have possibly done, so I was a little confused. He went on to apologize to me for wishing me a Happy Father's Day the week before. He knew that I lost a son, and must have realized it sometime after he greeted me, and carried that guilt all week. I felt like I needed to apologize to him! I smiled and told him that I had another son, and even if I didn't, I was still a father and I appreciated his greeting last week.
This incident reminded me that no matter how long my son has been gone, people still need to be given guidance on how to speak to me. I need to let them know it is okay, if I want to hear my son's name or hear stories about him. People are just uncomfortable. I also believe that they don't want to imagine what it is like to lose a son or a daughter. There is no way for them to relate to what we've been through. I can't blame them. If I didn't know what it was like, I surely would not want to try to imagine it. I wouldn't have come close, even in my worst nightmares.
If you experience the strange behavior of others when they find out you have lost a child, be prepared to communicate to them how you would like them to communicate with you. If you want to hear your child's name, or hear stories about them, let others know it is okay. If you feel comfortable talking about your daughter or son with people you don't know, let them know you're okay talking about them. If you don't want to talk about them, change the subject. Do whatever you need to do to remove the awkwardness that seems to always appear as soon as your identity as a bereaved parent is made known.