Life Advice



More Tactful Replies

Annie Lane on

Dear Readers: I received so many letters about the column "Tactful Reply" that I wanted to honor your feedback and print some of them below. Thank you all for sharing your wonderful words of wisdom and advice on how to handle these situations. I'm hoping that it helps others know they are not alone in their grief.

Dear Annie: In response to the mother questioning how to respond when asked how many children she had, I had to terminate a much-wanted and loved child due to an ectopic pregnancy. When pregnant with my next two, I developed a simple response to the "how many children" question: "I have one in heaven, one at home, and this babe is my third. They are my joys." This leaves further conversation options open about my surviving children, while acknowledging our loss. I was surprised to encounter a woman who lost her child who thanked me for sharing my own loss and adopting the same response. She and I share a deep pain, and we extend extra compassion to each other in our professional dealings. Those who ask the "how many" question must be prepared to receive the honest answer -- or not ask at all. -- Bekah

Dear Annie: My wife and I lost our son 23 years ago in a car accident five days before Christmas and eight days before his 19th birthday, and he was just completing his trimester from college. When asked, we never miss a beat on how many children we have. It's always four, and their ages. If questions are asked about that, then we start with the youngest first and end with our oldest last and our tragic loss. Never leave any child out who might not be physically here, because they are spiritually here 24/7. -- Forever

Dear Annie: When I'm asked, I have no problem telling people that I had two sons, one of whom succumbed to cancer. If the person who asked is uncomfortable with my answer, that is their choice. I have no control over how someone feels or reacts. Each of us has control over our own reactions and feelings. I wish that more people were cognizant of that. Imagine how powerful any of us would be if we could control others thoughts, feelings or actions. -- Comfortable With My Answer

Dear Annie: I lost my eldest daughter 11 months ago. When I am asked how many children I have, I still say three. To me, her death doesn't negate her life. She was born; she loved; and she was loved. So I will always include her in my tally. She should unabashedly do the same! -- Forever a Mother of Three Girls


Dear Annie: I have a friend who has lost a child. When asked, she responds, "I have one daughter and one angel." -- Truthful Answer

Dear Annie: I also lost my son and have had the same feelings answering her questions. I have since remarried to a man with grown children. My response to people asking if we have children is, "I have one with wings, and my husband has two with feet." It still acknowledges my son and kind of buffers the information, as people usually pause for a second to think. -- Hope This Helps


"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to



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