Monday, June 12, 2006

What's that word?

A few months back one of my friends said she had been talking to her boss about me. They said they didn't know of a word for a mother or father who lost a child. There is a word for a spouse who loses a spouse, a widow or widower. There is a word when a child loses parents, an orphan.

But my friend got me thinking. I hadn't heard of a word and I wondered why not. I thought there must be a word in another language as English is somewhat ascetic when it comes to those kinds of emotional words.

I asked a friend whose native language is Spanish if there was such a word. No, she didn't know of a word in her language either. She said losing a child was too terrible to have a word for it.

I still thought, this act of losing a child has been around forever, why has no one put a name to this awful existence.

I posted the question on Yahoo Answers hoping that a linguist would answer. I am sorry to report, although I received numerous answers, there doesn't seem to be a word to describe a parent who loses a child.

Here are some of the responses I received:

jmmevolve said No parent should outlive their child. It is just too devastating.

dcfringringhoe said "desolation I think. There is no word to describe the loss of a child - it must be the most awful thing in the world. So bad that no-one has invented a word for it.

eduardo agreed with my Spanish speaking friend and said "I think the idea itself is taboo, so nobody even dares to give it a name. In Spanish, my native language, there is no word for that either. It's too painful."

hafiz said "There is no single-word. Let's assume, if at all you need then there can be two-words: 'grieved-parent/s' (God forbid)."

cj said "devastation-incredible sadness, emptiness. No parent should survive their child. "

imagineitnow2012 said "I remember in some movie it was said "It's just too horrible to have a name"

and country girl said "I can't imagine losing one of my kids. But, you make a very good point. I can't think of one. "

And some people just responded "there is no word"

Obviously, this is my very meager attempt at finding out, to give myself a name, a descritpion; but it seems no one has been brave enough or had enough love to assign a word to this terrible predicament, this awkward position that I find myself in.

It's kind of sad, really.


Chancelucky said...

In a way, I hope that there is never a word because it will mean that there are so many parents who have lost children that we need a "name" for them.
The words that come to mind here are-Brave, articulate, angry, truthful, inspiring, and tough.

I suppose one could turn them into some sort of acronym, but it says something about a mother's love for her son that her reaction to his death is to try to make others hear her so other mothers and fathers don't have to go through the same thing unnecessarily.

The first word that comes to my mind, as the parent of three one of whom is 15, is "thanks".

brainhell said...

Very tough to come up with a word that doesn't have another common use like 'injured' or 'hollow.' Tough question.