How did he die? Part Two


Why do so many people ask, “How did he die?” Why are they concerned about what happened? 

I’m not an expert or trained counselor, but I have a few ideas on the subject.

Some people ask out of genuine concern and love. As imperfect as they are, they want to love us and help us. To these people, I spill my guts. I tell them what happened. All of it. It is sometimes messy. Tears, and snot, and stuff. But they love me anyway. I am thankful for these friends.

Sometimes it’s asked out of simple curiosity or ignorance of what to say to a grieving mom. If the former, we can deflect the questions by saying something like, “oh, I’d rather not discuss that.” I usually just say, “drunk driving accident,” as if that explains everything. It doesn’t.

If the later, we can help educate folks by teaching them or posting good articles on what to say and how to help.

In the early days of grief, we can’t help others know how to love us. We are too broken. But as we heal, and as time passes, we will have learned a few things. And we can share those lessons with our friends so we can all love the next bereaved parents just a bit better. 

But I think a deeper reason people ask how he died or what happened is that, in their minds, they think, “If I know how another mom lost her son, I can prevent that from happening to my kid. To my family. To me.” 

If it was illness – I’ll get a better doctor than they used

Accident – I will watch my kid more carefully than they did

Stillbirth – my kids were all born healthy and I’m done having kids

He fell mountain climbing – my daughter will stay off mountains 

Drugs – my kid would never use drugs

Murder by abuser – my daughter will be more careful in who she marries

Suicide – my kid is a Christian, he would never take his own life

Drowning – mine will always wear a life vest

Really!? Your child will ALWAYS wear a life vest?? Always?

You see, if they can explain the why’s of child loss, maybe they won’t have to face the fact that it can happen to them. And yet… Anyone of us could face the horror of losing a child. I know. I face it every day.

It makes me want to shout: “No!!! No, you cannot prevent all accidents. Your child will not always wear a life vest nor will he always be careful not to get in a car with a buzzed driver. I know lots of people who are great parents and yet their child died. More prayer or a better team of doctors or bigger hospital would not have saved our kids. Yes, some of our kids were Christians and they became addicts or alcoholics; your child could become one, too, and if she does, you will love her through the whole horrible thing.

And I want to shout, “love your child and introduce him to Jesus! Trust God and pray and love your kid. And know that he is not really yours; he was loaned to you for a little while. He is God’s. And God can be trusted with him. No matter what happens. He is a loving, compassionate, gracious God. He loves your kid. In life and in death. And He loves you! Turn to him now!”

So, If you are a bereaved parent who is tired of the question, “How did he die?” surround yourself with people who can love you well. With folks who will listen to you talk about how your son lived, not how he died. 

If you don’t have those folks in your town, well, you can found us here. In While We’re Waiting. We will listen. And we will love you.

Consider going to a moms mini retreat, dads weekend, or parents weekend.

Or find a Grief Share group in your community. 

And if you are a friend of a bereaved parent, instead of inquiring about death details,  try asking, “Could you tell me about your child? What were his favorite toys? What was she like? How can I contribute to a memorial charity?” Love your grieving friend. Love her well. 



7 thoughts on “How did he die? Part Two

  1. Pingback: How did he die? Part Two | kathleenbduncan

  2. Yes others do want to know how our child died and it’s not nosiness, it’s to reassure themselves that whatever happened to our child couldn’t possibly happen to theirs. I usually oblige by emphasising how rare and unusual Leah’s diagnosis was, along with the rare side effects that she developed after her bone marrow transplant.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kathleen ~~ I am glad when people ask me how many children I have. I always say I birthed three and am lucky enough to be “Momma K” to 10 plus kids. Often the next question usually is “How old?” I reply, “Ethan would be 24 this year, Kayla is… Elantra is….” And some people catch the “would be”. Many ask, “What happened?”

    I have learned, over the last 4 years 10 months and 22 days, that if I just say, ‘he passed away’ it is always and I do mean ALWAYS followed by “how?” So… I’ve tried to stop hearing the “how?” (I think it is because hearing that hurts me, but it could be because it just prolongs the inevitable.) I go straight to “He was murdered.”

    I am aware there is a shock factor in those words. But I am not trying to shock the caring person standing in front of me. It is a reality that is hard to swallow for many. Because, as you pointed out above, there are many folks out there who, within a nanosecond, put themselves in ‘our’ shoes.

    I don’t wish anyone to wear our shoes, but it is going to happen. After all — where there is good … well, how would we know good if we did not know bad?

    I steeped my son (all of my children) in Christianity and he was murdered by a Godless person (who’s mum is a pastor, no less). So much for my planning, my ‘baby’ was still robbed of is life.

    One of my “favorite” questions is, “…if you don’t mind me asking?”
    No… this momma never minds talkin’ about her first born (or any of my other kids either). I don’t mind most people asking. “After all, if we stop talking about him, it will be as if he never existed. And he did!”

    But one of my favorite questions to ask grieving folks is: “Tell me something that makes you smile about your loved one, please?”

    So, Kathleen, what is something that makes you smile about your beauty?


    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathleen,

      Thank you for asking!

      His kindness! His kindness makes me smile. He was a goofy kid and often forgot to use a filter, but he was never malicious. Andrew was kind and thoughtful. He smiled all the time and brought smiles with him when he walked into a room.

      He was grateful for little things like a box of starbursts I sent to him at college, along with the summons for a speeding ticket. He was excited to open the box and find the bad news surrounded by colorful candy.

      In the midst of struggling with issues some our others were going through, Andrew made me feel like a good mother. I needed that sometimes. I could always call him and he would tell me about his life, his friends, his adventures. And he always told me he loved me and was glad I was his momma.

      Thank you for asking me to share. I am smiling through my tears as I type this.

      Love back to you,

      Liked by 1 person

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