There Is No Adequate Word to Describe the Pain of a Bereaved Parent


“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.” — President Reagan

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Since that time, specifically October 15, this day has been set aside to remember those sweet babies who aren’t in their parent’s arms. I truly appreciate President Reagan for doing this for I have had four pregnancy losses. I do wish, however, that it was a day/month designated for all bereaved parents no matter what age our child may have been when they passed on. This statement of his was actually a rearranged quote from another:

“A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. There is no word for a parent who loses a child. That’s how awful the loss is.” — Jay Neugeboren, “An Orphan’s Tale”

The most common names for us who have had to bury a child are: grieving parent or bereaved parent. I am a bereft mother of five, including my 20-year-old son. I think about my children every single day, and it has been 18 years and three months since my 20-year-old left this world. I think about how many more months and years I have before I am reunited with him, and meeting my other four for the first time. I still have days of “grief fog.” I still have days that are completely debilitating. I am forever abiding in a holding pattern…waiting. I still find myself unconsciously placing my hand on my abdomen when I think of them. There are other days when I can embrace the love intertwined in the memories I so cherish — days in which I can see my son’s gleaming smile in my mind’s eye…and I smile, too.

How do we break the silence?

How do the nameless become known?

I am the Unknown, the Undesignated, the Anonymous.

When I type “bereaved parent” in Webster’s Thesaurus, a box pops up that states:

Words fail us

How apropos and to the point is that?

Perhaps there is no word possible to “define” us. There is certainly no adequate word to describe our excruciating pain; there is no way of measuring the depth of our heartache.

Perhaps, we shall always be the: Nameless, the Unidentified.

Jude’s book, “Gifts from the Ashes,” is available at Direct Textbook.

A version of this post originally appeared on Jude’s website.

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Thinkstock image by Filipovic018


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