When I Die

Driving back from Narragansett, Rhode Island, I had 1.5 hours to ponder the wedding hubby and I attended on Friday, the family we reconnected with and the crazy loon of an innkeeper that we met at the bed and breakfast we stayed at (said innkeeper was listed on Trip Advisor as “aggressively friendly”). For some strange reason, as we approached Voluntown, CT I began to ponder death.

I do this now and then.  No particular reason.  Most times the thought is connected with a conversation, like the one I had with Cousin Brian over the weekend. We discussed our fathers’ deaths or the one I had with Cousin Elaine where she reflected on her deceased mothers name in the wedding program. There was no such prompt as we drove through the sleepy eastern Connecticut town.  My husband was quietly driving and me looking out the windows admiring old New England architecture sprinkled with bursts of hydrangea or tiger lily…and death.

I thought of my death as it relates  to my daughter. Specifically, I found myself wondering if any of my family would tell her if/when I die and if she would even want to know? (I should state I am absolutely fine but we never know when things may change). Would I want her to be told?

I suppose I should give formal instructions to someone (likely my husband…but what if he dies with me or before me?) of what to do in relation to her in the event I die before we have ever re-met.

Most of my friends are reunited but not in reunion so I ask you, have you pondered this? Have you given explicit instructions to a family member or friend to tell your surrendered child about your death?

If you are an adoptee (particularly one in a non-reunion) would you want to know this? How would you want to be told?

I am feeling like I should tell a few people and also give them the way to contact her (email, full name or something like that).

Clearly I thought about this years ago but still I have not taken any formal action.  Read old post on this topic.

12 Thoughts.

  1. Suz, as you know I am in reunion, in regular touch with my son. He’s listed in our documents as my “birth son” (I know, yuck… but he has to be specifically named, because legally he’s not my son, and would otherwise be left out). Whether or not your daughter would “want” to know that something happened to you is irrelevant, except that you’d prefer she cared. She needs to be told, so yes, leave her contact info in your documents, and with a few trusted people who will likely live longer than you. Do you think about leaving her anything, something special of yours? I would also do that. It might mean more to her than you think. Just my two cents…

  2. Thank you for your thoughts Denise. Rich and are discussing and I suppose i will officially finally give him some written details/email to have in case. Then I need to think about someone else. It pains me to think of asking one of my sons when they have been through so much in this regard. It feels painful to ask my sons to contact the sister that did not want to know them and let her know I have passed. So much angst in that statement. Yuck. I do not know.

    As to giving or leaving her something, there was a time when I would have said emphatically YES. These days, not so much. I still have the box of stuff (love letters, cards, jewelry, etc. that her father gave me through the years). I have no idea what I would do with that when I am gone. I don’t suppose anyone else would want.

  3. Suz, I would want to know. Even though my birth father and I mutually decided not have have an ongoing relationship, I still want to know when he dies and under what circumstances. I expect when that happens, I will contemplate, more than I do now, if something could have turned out differently. Not as an adoptee, but in our reunion. i know little morsels about him and his family and my curiosity is lively. I’ve looked at his profile picture on FaceBook and that fills in a few gaps. I would not however take the opportunity of his death, to seek out my siblings. I’m 100% open to them seeking me, but I don’t want to upset their lives. Ideally, I’d receive a letter from him that he had planned for someone to mail upon his death. His own words delivered by someone else. While Mom C and I were seperated, despite my rejection of her, I would have wanted to know if something happened to her. Both of my great grandparents died while we were estranged and when I found out later, my grief was laden with guilt about what I’d missed. (Sorry for rambling.) Follow you heart. I’m sure someone close to you will be willing to get in touch with your daughter when you pass away. If not, I volunteer. Love and hugs, Becca

  4. Hi. I have been in reunion for twenty years with my first mom. It was not a completely happy reunion and it had it’s ups and downs. When my first mom died if February we hadn’t talked in a year and a half. She took her own life. Even though we were estranged, I was completely gutted. I loved her with my whole heart and soul but she could never accept my love. She was always taking things that were said and completely distorting them to try to create me into some kind of monster. I was notified by my half brother who I had not really had much of a relationship with through the years. He is on the autism spectrum and has many social issues. Also, he Is significantly younger than me. I think having me come to the funeral was a huge comfort for him because I am so much like my mom. During the week I was in town he really leaned on me for support. After I flew back home he has gone back to pretending I don’t exist. My mom did include me in her trust but I wished she hadn’t. The reason I wished she hadn’t is because with the gift she had given me I received a copy of the trust that very clearly let me know that I was not her daughter and had no rights to anything of hers except what she had specifically given me. I had never in the twenty years of reunion asked her for anything. For her to go out of her way to try to keep me from her money was so incredibly hurtful. I would never try to touch her money and you would think in the twenty years she knew me that she would know that. It hurt so bad! I understood that the wording was just technical legal mumbo jumbo but it really hurt. I have made a comfortable life for myself and my family and I was never a threat of trying to take anything away from my brother. I understood that she felt she needed to legally say those things but I really didn’t need a copy of the trust. Even though our reunion was really rocky at times I loved her so much! I am crying as I write this because I am so incredibly sad that she took her own life an never could accept my love. I guess I don’t have a point. If you want to notify your child, I think you should do so. If you want to give your child something then maybe you should. But just because she may behave unlovable doesn”t mean that deep down she doesn’t love you. Good luck in whatever you decide. I sincerely wish you the best for your life.

  5. I had a bit of the opposite experience in that I am the adoptive mother and my son passed away unexpectedly in June. Making the phone call to his first mom gutted me. She was the only person I verbally told—everyone else was either told by my support system or via face book or text– but I knew I had to be the one to call her. I had to be the one to say those words, which somehow I managed to do. Nothing except actually dealing with and grieving this unimaginable loss will ever compare to having to tell her.

    We’ve had an open adoption from the beginning and we’ve both reiterated the fact that that was the best thing for all of us. She did ponder if it would have been easier not to have known he died… But in the end she was happy to know and get to be part of the funeral and other goodbye events.

    None of it was easy or is easy but the choice was clear for us.


    • Hi Melissa! Gosh. I have no words. Condolences to you both on the loss of your son. I will add that as a mother I would prefer to know than not – despite how gutting it may be. I recall wondering for the many years before I found my daughter if she was dead or alive. It is the decent thing to do – to notify a first parent their child is deceased. At least I believe it is.

  6. I firmly believe in too much knowledge is better than too little. It used to freak me out that if my son were sick or dead, I wouldn’t know. Even now I’m not sure who would tell me if something happened to him. And honestly, even though our reunion is pretty much toast at this point, I think he’d still want to know if I were dead, even if the information confused him. I just really think there are some things a person ought to know, even if they think they don’t care.

  7. I have recently had cause to give this a lot of thought as. I was diagnosed with cancer in March. I have undergone surgery and am almost done radiation treatments. We hope I will live, but who really knows. On my sons 21st birthday, which was about a year and a half after our reunion ended in tears, I sent him a long letter telling him all about the life of my grandfather, his great-grandfather. With the letter, I also sent him my grandfathers beautiful garnet ring. NO response from him. Because of the way he has chosen to randomly behave over the last 5 years, and especially the way he has treated his full-blooded sister, our raised daughter who is not even 18 yet, he will not be advised when I die. I know it seems harsh, and truthfully it hurts my heart a great deal to accept that this is a decision I have made. I have reached out so many times only to be shunned or deeply insulted each time, that I refuse to give him the opportunity to shun me one last time at my death.

    • Denise – Hello and thank you for sharing your thoughts. Given your health Issues, I completely agree. Even without your health issues, I agree. Mothers (all kinds) need to put the oxygen mask on themselves first then care about others. Just like instructed on airplanes.

      I am a firm believer that we teach people how to treat us. As long we mothers or adoptees allow the other parties to treat us like shit, they will continue to do so. Wishing you the best with your health!

  8. I realize I do not know what the future holds, but as it stands now, I’m not making any provisions for my daughter in my will or with regard to making sure she is notified when I die.

    Financially, she doesn’t need my help. Emotionally, she cut me out like a cyst and so I do not want to her have anything of mine that means anything to me. She doesn’t deserve it.

    When we die, my *husband* (we operate as a married couple, but not legally bound) and I will have no heirs. We are having our estate liquidated and given to charity. Guess that is how I’m handling being unfairly judged and manipulated… and clearly not over it.

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