There are several words to describe people who have known loss.
A person who has lost their spouse is a widow or widower. A person who’s lost his or her parents is an orphan.
But there is no word for someone who has experienced the loss of a child. Personally, I believe that’s because it’s impossible to convey such tragedy with mere words. Myself and several other parents I’ve met in the same situation prefer to call ourselves “angel parents,” for lack of a better term.
It goes against the natural order of things for a parent to lose a child. As parents, we believe that our children will outlive us by many years and will be vibrant and alive long after we are gone. However, for some, that is not the direction life takes.
My son, Gabriel Steven, was 18 months old when he passed away July 17, 2009. It was beyond any shadow of a doubt the worst day of my life. It was the day my soul was ripped apart and I became a broken person. All signs pointed to SIDS as the cause, but he was more than a year old. We searched for answers, but “undetermined” is the best answer we will ever get. He just went to sleep and didn’t wake up, and I must learn to accept that. Gabriel had an identical twin, Michael, as well as an older brother and sister, Aarik and Amaris. Despite my hurt, they still need a mom so I had to pull it together.
With the holiday season rapidly approaching and with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I can’t help but think of what I have to be thankful for. Since Gabriel died, holidays have been a horrible balancing act for me. I have other children, so I must put on a happy face for them because I can’t stomach the idea of their memories being tainted by my sadness. But my pain is real and it never goes away. It is very difficult to celebrate a family-oriented holiday when my family is no longer complete. I must balance between the soul-rending heartbreak and the festive mask that children expect to see for the holidays.