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No word for a parent who loses a child

I’ve struggled this week to find words that properly honor the grief that families in our country are going through and I was reminded of a post I did on November 16, 2011, after hearing from parents who lost their child. Sometimes there are no words, but amidst the pain and sadness there does come strength.

We’ve seen this strength in parents sharing their story, children honoring their best friends, first responders continuing to protect those they serve even as they have to see horrific images and a country banding together to comfort people they have never met.

There is no word for a parent that loses a child
First published November 16, 2011

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 – 1976

Last week I attended the Safe Kids USA Conference.  It’s an opportunity for coalition coordinators from across the country, as well as other members of the child safety community, to share best practices and learn from each other.

This year, we had the honor to hear from parents who lost their children to accidental injury. We heard from Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero who lost her daughter, Ray Ray, after she was left in a hot car earlier this year and Karl Kinley, father of 15-year-old son Spencer, who died after falling off of his skateboard. Their stories, among others, were so powerful.  They lost a child.  I simply can’t imagine the pain and sorrow they have gone through.

For these brave parents, part of their grieving and healing process has been to share their story, to be advocates for other children – and to help other parents who had to bury their children.  Their stories of the day their child died were stark realities of why injury professionals do what we do. However,  their words are far more powerful than any press release that Dayton Children’s could send out or blog post I could write.  They have lived the agony of losing someone they cherish with all of their heart.

This week, I’m sending thoughts to all parents to have lost a child to accidental injury.  That they may grieve and heal in their own time – in their own way. And I’m sending an extra special thank you to parents who have found the courage to take their grief and share their stories in order to educate others.


  1. Reply
    Hilary November 11, 2016

    Thank you for this little tidbit. Today it has been 4 weeks since I last got to see, speak to, and hug my beautiful baby boy. He died the following day in a boating accident alongside his father and his fathers step son in law. My oldest and son in law survived. I am still angry, but more so shattered. My son would be 15 on November 16th…the day you wrote this article 5 years ago. Thank you again💙

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