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Outliving one's child

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Topic: 6) Outliving one's child (1 of 5), Read 80 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Thursday, June 03, 1999 07:19 AM

Sue Anspach, of Erdenheim, Pa., writes: "This is similar to the example, on the Word Fugitives introduction screen, of how the word 'pedestrian' evolved (originally everyone walked, so such a word was not meaningful, but eventually, as a walking person became an identifiable class separate from the people in vehicles, a distinction was needed).

"I believe that in times past, because only 50 percent of children reached adulthood, the loss of a child to death was extremely common. Therefore, a parent who had lost a child in such a way was not rare, or not unusual enough to be labeled as such.

"In today's world the loss of a child is a much rarer occurrence (thank God), but it does happen. We have the words 'widow' and 'widower,' for those who have lost a spouse, but no word that designates a person who has lost a child. I lost a brother when he was 21 years old. My mother lived in a different state from where my brother lived, and I think it would be beneficial and a tactful way of communicating to people who are not aware of her loss. It is a very important part of her life. I have spoken with other people who have lost a child, and they also wish there were such a word to describe themselves."


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Topic: 6) Outliving one's child (2 of 5), Read 75 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Roger Gay (roger.f.gay@telia.se)
Date: Thursday, June 03, 1999 08:40 AM

The words widow and widower come from a Latin word that means separated. If it had held it's original meaning, it might cover loss of children as well, and even separation due to divorce, etc. (Golf widows aren't even divorced.)

I found no separate word for parents who have lost children, - not even in someone's summary of her PhD thesis on the subject - except for bereaved; which is not what's being looked for here. However, there does seem to be some interest expressed in the question, in doing things in a nice way. So here's a list of dos and don'ts when talking with bereaved family members.

Dos and don'ts

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Topic: 6) Outliving one's child (3 of 5), Read 68 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Rus Bowden (lowelldude@aol.com)
Date: Thursday, June 03, 1999 04:37 PM

Then how about "offspring widow" and "offspring widower"?

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Topic: 6) Outliving one's child (4 of 5), Read 72 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Michael Fischer (tsuwm@aol.com)
Date: Thursday, June 03, 1999 11:38 PM

(I apologize profusely for what I'm about to type.)

I can't help myself here at all but what leaps to my mind is the image of an acrobat losing her accomplished and faithful partner -- a handspring widow.

today's wwftd is...

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Topic: 6) Outliving one's child (5 of 5), Read 81 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Rus Bowden (lowelldude@aol.com)
Date: Friday, June 04, 1999 12:17 AM

Michael,

It seems that what you are apologizing for is precisely why this word is different from any word fugitive we've tried to track down. Perish the thought that I would outlive any one of my children.

We must be careful, it would seem, as to what we offer and how we respond to each other. What happy witticisms could we use to stimulate each other as we all move toward the perfect word? Something like "pin cushion" just won't do, will it? This is a challenge. This may be a toughy.

Rus




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