Orphan. Widow. Widower. Yet no word for us. Because there is no way to describe the devastation of a pain like no other. Whether a child dies during birth or at three or seventeen, the pain is unlike any other. Don't presume to understand unless you carry this devastation in your own heart. Don't compare someone's child dying to anything else, it's belittling the parent's grief and the child's life and memory.
There is no word in the English language for a parent who loses a child. There is no word in any language for us that I know of. This is known and felt by every one of us when we face the world changed forever, and so as a community, we have nicknames for ourselves. We are Angel Mommies and Daddies, and baby loss mamas and dads. Proud of such titles in a way that can't be fully understood by others. Yes, the reason for the nicknames is the hardest pain we will ever feel but we continue to love and honor our children. Still feel pride in their beauty, their very preciousness. Some try to push foreign words, and blended words into common use but none have caught on so far. They just do not resonate with enough of us. There may never be a word for us. If after thousands of years, a word has not been found to experience the ultimate loss who's to believe one will ever be found.
Maybe a word cannot be formed for something so against the natural order of life.
Every child who grows up will eventually lose their parents, and they become orphans, whether at three or thirty or sixty. A lasting marriage means either husband or wife will lose the other, and become a widow or widower after a year or fifty years of matrimony. The pain is crushing, but it must come as we all grow older. Some times it comes much too soon. Even when it comes after a long and blessed life, letting go is so hard. As life goes on, we prepare for it and know one day it will come.
But to bury your child.... who prepares for that? Who holds their newborn child and thinks maybe I'll soon have to pick out a tiny white casket and lay my child down forever? No one does, ever. Even when a small child battles a disease or serious defect, the parents cannot give up hope. Hope gives them strength to keep going through their life, caring for their child and holding everything together.
Hope is an amazing thing, it's very hard to crush but when it's taken away, the result is pain beyond measure. On Sunday July 4th afternoon, I started having contractions. They stayed very erratic and far apart, but did not abate. Monday they continued in the same way. Tuesday afternoon, at 2:30pm, I had my weekly check-up. I was exactly 37 weeks and full-term. But they couldn't find her heartbeat. We where sent for an ultrasound, praying it would reveal the precious flash of Ember's beating heart. It did not. It was still another day before she was born, at 2:33pm. Twenty-four hours of desperate hope, with everyone knowing she was gone. But I couldn't give up hope. When she was born, I prayed to hear her cry. When she was handed to me, slick and still, my hope stayed, weak but there. But when I looked down at her, though, my hope died as she stayed still and silent.
That's when my grief really began. And as any Angel mom or dad can tell you, the grief never ends.
There's no word for us, but we are still here. All around you are parents with broken hearts. There's no word for us, but please don't ignore us.