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There are some questions that illustrate such vulnerability, such open tragedy on the part of the asker that we fend off tears while we come up with an appropriate answer.


Sometimes the question comes from someone who's been so steeped in struggle that they need help understanding that another possible reality exists.

Sometimes it's a question that cuts right to our own core with startling efficiency.

Whatever form it takes, it stops us in our tracks and we're likely to remember it for quite awhile after.

Curious to hear the saddest examples, Redditor julylovestory asked:

"What question has someone asked you that secretly broke your heart?"

Many Redditors responded by sharing the sad questions uttered by young children.

Kids just have the knack for cutting straight through to the essence of it all.

A Tragic Conscientiousness

"As we passed the toy aisle at the store, 'I know you don't have much money right now, but maybe when you get some we could come back and get a toy?' "

"I was not doing well financially back then and my daughter brought me to tears in the middle of the store."

-- TheCurls

Puzzled and Sad

"First day of preschool for my three year old son. The first time he would ever be away from Mom & Dad at the same time."

"I brought him to the room and expected a meltdown, but instead he confidently strutted, and I do mean strutted into the classroom."

"Three hours later, I picked him up. He was ok until we got to the car when he said, in quiet sad voice 'l thought you were coming with,' followed by an even sadder quieter 'Why did you leave me?' "

-- RelevantNostalgia

If Only

" 'Can I wish for my sister?' - A 10-year-old student of mine whose big sister died 4 years ago. We were working on an activity about dreams and aspirations for their futures."

-- missadinosaur

How Bad Must It Be?

"I was like 22 and it was probably 10pm or so at a Walmart. I was on my way to a party and stopped for beer. The store was fairly empty and as I was in the beer aisle, I see this kid completely by himself."

"He was about 5 and at first I thought it was kind of funny because he was trying to pick up a case of beer. I waited like 30-60 seconds, looking around for this kid's mom/dad to come get him. A couple people walked right by him like it was normal, so then I started getting worried. I picked up my two cases of beer and walked over and kindly asked him if he lost his mom or needed help."

"The kid completely ignored the question and instead was thoroughly impressed that I was strong enough to carry two cases of beer. Eventually an employee noticed and came over as well. I told her everything I knew and she took over and told him that she was going to bring him to find his mom."


"As he was walking away he kept looking back at me and I smiled and said goodbye. The kid stopped and said 'can I just come home with you? I don't like my mom.' "

"I was caught off guard so I just laughed and told him the lady was going to help him. Now I'll never know the full story, or what happened to him but the more I think about it - that kid more than likely had a pretty shi**y childhood."

"I mean, the store wasn't busy and it was late at night on a weekday. It really makes you wonder why he was there in the first place, how he got separated from his mom and why would he ask to go with a complete stranger instead of worrying about where his mom was?"

"It still makes me sad. Hope everything worked out for the little dude."

-- PrometheusAborted

Others talked about the times when they or somebody else realized just how tragic their own circumstances were.

Suddenly Aware

"My ex asked me what I liked to do with my family growing up."

"Made me realize my family never did anything together and I literally had no answer to such a basic question."

-- don_juicy

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Seeing Another Version

"During college, parents took a friend and I out to dinner. Very normal dinner, chit chatted about whatever. After we left and were walking back to my car, he turns to me and says 'Is that what a normal relationship is like?' "

"We talked more after that, I had met his parents a few times and they seemed strict but never seemed to have a terrible relationship. Turned out apparently his dad had cheated on his mom multiple times, dad had zero respect for any of my friends sisters and essentially expected them to do all the housework while the men did 'guy stuff.' "

"Hunting, training for sports, school, etc. Turned out his childhood was pretty fu**ed, dad was never around and he had to essentially be the father figure in the house. As the oldest child, never really saw a normal loving relationship that he could look up to."

"My friend is a really nice guy, still has some messed up views of relationships though. I never realized how 'abnormal' my very normal family/childhood was."

-- Spirited-Cucumber-82

A Better Place

" 'You've never beaten me or told me I couldn't do something. Is that normal?'

"My first girlfriend told me that. I have never felt such a wave of anger, sadness, and heartbreak wash over me like I did when I heard that"

-- justsomerandomguy

Still Raw

" 'Is this your first child/baby?' 'How many live births have you had?' My first child died in infancy. Those kill me."

"So does 'how is your daughter doing?' From people with whom i rarely speak/see. That one is the worst. My second child is currently four weeks. I'm fu**ing terrified."

-- daggerxdarling

And some people discussed the time a question destroyed their social confidence.

Worst Teacher Ever

"I have a stutter, when I was a kid I had to read a page of a book to the class. I stuttered, and the teacher said 'can you even read' and that fu**ing broke my 13 year old heart."

"No one takes stuttering seriously."

-- ape-with-keyboard

There's the Answer

"When I was 19, I hung out with a cute girl from my high school that I never got to hang with when we were in school. Had a great day together, and that night she asked, 'can we be like secret friends or something? I don't really hang out with people like you.' "

"Never hung out again."

-- prstele01

Comparing and Contrasting

" 'Oh, are you the girl with the hot sister ?' " -- JustehOK

"I worked in a department with two Melissas. One day, I was sitting next to one Melissa when we overheard another coworker say to someone, 'have you seen little Melissa?' "

"The other Melissa got kind of a defeated look in her eye and said, 'oh, I'm big Melissa.' " -- EarhornJones

To Be Seen Inaccurately

"I went through some abuse that essentially stopped me from having romantic interest for a while (4 years)."

"A female friend I was very close with at the time had been told by some of her friends who didn't like me that I was probably just pretending to be her friend because I was secretly in love with her."

"She asked me if that was true. It broke my heart since if she could believe that it was like she could also believe I was lying about the abuse or the effects thereof just to get close to her, and it really hurt that she could think me capable of that."

-- Mildly_Opinionated

When the Fears Keep Coming True

"A friend recently asked 'Did you not change your bed sheets?' when they visited. I have been struggling with my mental health for the past few weeks. Adopted a kitten because I thought it would help me with it and it died 4 days later."

"Everything I did within my power to make myself better/happier just seems to backfire. Yes, I did not change my bed sheets."

-- chaoticrudepenguin

Slipping Through Cracks

"Variations on 'What was your name again?' Apparently, I am so forgettable that over the years, literally not one person whom I have known casually and then not seen for like 6 months or more can remember who I am."

"Good friends know me, yes. But I have lost count of the number of people whom I went to school with or lived next door to or who were friends of my friends who knew me for YEARS, if only as an acquaintance, and then cannot remember even my first name."

-- SnooPickles3213

That Playground Cruelty

" 'Are you a boy, or a girl?' This was earnestly asked to me on the playground when I was 13. I was very chubby, and had grown out my hair (my dad had a cool ponytail, and I wanted to be like my dad). But puberty hadn't really kicked in yet, so I guess I looked pretty androgynous."

"I told the girl that asked I was a boy, and she nodded and walked away, returning to a friend who then cheered in triumph, I guess they won the bet."

"That messed with me for a while."

-- ComebackShane

It's a list that's sad enough to leave one wondering about the questions they've received that struck them as particularly hopeless.

Sometimes, though, that vulnerability can be the start of accepting new realities and new possibilities.

Want to "know" more? Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again. Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.


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