There is no word in any language that describes the parent who loses a child.
A woman who loses her husband is called a widow. A man who loses his wife is a widower, and a child who loses her parents is an orphan. To the best of my knowledge, however, there isn’t really a word in English or any other language for a parent who loses a child. And perhaps that is as it should be?
I cannot conceive of anything more outside the natural order of things than the death of a child before that of his parents. Seeing the photos today of the smiling 8-year-old Martin Richard, killed yesterday while awaiting his dad at the end of the Boston Marathon, left me wondering how parents survive this?
Is it even possible for a parent to see something like the Boston Bombing or the Newtown tragedy and not, at least for the briefest moment, think the unthinkable. What if it had been our child? However fleeting, the thought scares me to my core. I don’t know for sure how I’d handle something like this. Do you?
Am I the only one who isn’t sure how we’d cope with the loss of a child? You hope you’d be strong for your spouse who would need you more than ever. And if you have other children, you’d need to be there for them. As “unnatural” as the loss of a child may seem to most of us, clearly it happens… too often.
I wish I had answers, words of wisdom or comfort I could offer. I’d love to hear yours if you have any? There is only one thing I know to do, and I’d ask you to do the same: Give your kid(s) an extra long hug tonight. Read them an extra story. Tuck them in and give them an extra kiss on the head. Tell them you love them.
Then do it all over again tomorrow.
*You may also wish to read: Suffering in Silence – It’s Time We Talk about Miscarriage