Thoughts on Parents Whose Children Have Died

In decades of writing columns, I have taken risks but perhaps never one as big this: writing a column to and about parents who have lost a child. I can well imagine that the first reaction of any parent who has lost a child will be: Why does this guy, who hasn’t gone through what I have, think he has something to say about the death of a child? What does he know about the unspeakable pain I live with?

Nevertheless, having talked to many parents who have lost children over the course of 40 years—on my radio show and in private consultations (largely because of my religious writings and talks)—and given the possibility that I might be able to say something that will help some parents, I feel it is a risk worth taking.

So, here are some thoughts in light of the latest massacre of students.

1. Most deaths of young people are what we normally label “senseless.” When an old person dies, no one deems the death senseless. When a policeman, fireman or soldier dies, we don’t label their deaths senseless. But when most young people die, it is obviously not because of old age, and it is relatively rarely a result of them having risked their lives for society. Rather, it is usually an accident—a car crash, a drunk driver, a drug overdose, a disease, a murder. All of those are indeed senseless, which adds to a parent’s already immeasurable pain. The parent whose child died fighting the Taliban at least has some consolation.

2. As a believer in a just and good God, I am thoroughly convinced that parents will indeed meet their child again. As I explain in a PragerU video on the afterlife, while the existence of an afterlife is not provable, it is axiomatic that if there is a good God, there is an afterlife. A good God would not make this life—with all its unjust suffering — the only realm of existence. Moreover, there is a large body of convincing evidence for the existence of an afterlife.

3. Happiness is usually a choice, even for parents who have lost a child. Abraham Lincoln, who had a very difficult life—including the death of two of his sons, a psychologically troubled wife and the management of a horrific civil war—famously said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

Parents who have lost a child must still try to choose to be happy, or at least allow themselves moments of happiness. As much as this seems impossible within a year or two or five of a child’s death (a close friend who lost his 11-year-old son told me he “wept at least once a day for five years; after that, it quite abruptly seemed to get better”), and even though the hole left by a child’s death is never filled, happiness is possible—if the parents give themselves permission to experience it.

If you do not, it is not only your child who has died but you as well. And if your child was murdered, the murderer has claimed yet another victim.

4. People who have lost a child find some comfort in myriad ways. For some it is through their other children—if they have any—their marriage or their religion; having a community or a life of service; immersion in a passion, friends or therapy; or some combination of these things. But I would be remiss if I did not relate what the father of a 21-year-old who died in a car accident told me. He said that nothing lessened his intense pain over losing his beloved son—not one of the aforementioned ways, for example—until he discovered support groups for parents who lost a child. Because they were the only ones who could empathize with his pain, he found listening and talking to them truly therapeutic. Two organizations that might help are The Compassionate Friends and the Forever Family Foundation

5. There is something that can be almost as painful as losing a child: losing a child who has not died. This is rarely addressed, yet I am convinced the phenomenon of adult children who have chosen to never speak to their parent has reached epidemic proportions. Whenever I raise this subject on my radio show, men (and, less frequently, women) call in and weep when they tell me that their child has not spoken to them in 10, 20 or more years. It is frequently, though certainly not always, the result of parental alienation brought about by an angry ex-spouse during and after a divorce.

It is true there is always hope that the child will return to the parent. But after a decade or two, and after the parents having been deprived of knowing their grandchildren, often there is no realistic hope. Their pain is permanent, and they do not have the loving memories that most parents whose child has died have.

6. Finally, don’t blame God. God didn’t kill your child. If anything, He grieves along with you. No one, whether a parent or anyone else, should stop believing in God because of such terrible incidents. God made a world in which people die at all ages and in many ways, a world in which people are free to do evil. The alternative would be a world consisting of humanlike robots who could never commit evil. But such a world would be meaningless and as devoid of joy as it is suffering. If you want to get angry at God, definitely do so. But that is not the same as not believing in Him.

I hope some of this helped.

COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM

About Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in May 2019, is The Rational Bible, a commentary on the book of Genesis. His film, "No Safe Spaces," comes to theaters fall 2019. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.

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5 responses to “Thoughts on Parents Whose Children Have Died

  • Thank you for this. We lost a 9 month old daughter to a sudden viral disease 27.5 years ago. So much of what you said is true, and helpful. In my case, while I didn’t blame God, I did forever lose any faith in prayer. In order to make sense of this life, I have to believe God set it up, and just lets it run. I cannot believe he would have any involvement in ending an innocent child’s life, and I also have first hand knowledge that he doesn’t intercede in response to prayer.

    The pain dulls after a couple of years, and other children do help…mainly because you are so busy with them.

    When she died, my greatest fear was that I would forget her since we had only had 9 months with her and I desperately committed to memory all that I could. For anyone else going through this…be at ease….you will remember your child.

  • Please Jew spare us, you Jews worship a God who kills innocent children in their sleep. And you Jews have been celebrating that murder of innocent children for the past 5,000 years. Was that just? Was that fair?? Is your Jew God a just a fair God?? Please Jew stop your lying.

      • ..and yet I do not worship a God that kills innocent children in their sleep like the Jews do. Who is the sick animal?

  • Brother, thank you for your thoughts. You take on a daunting task and treat it well. I particularly and strongly concur with your sixth point. G-d is a righteous and a holy god – – His will be done. Amen.
    Over a decade ago we lost a two-year-old son in an accident. There are no words to describe such a thing. If you haven’t experienced it, the closest description I could give you is this: imagine having your soul removed from your body while you live. You’re alive, but your spirit is elsewhere, pursuing what is lost, what you cannot find. I prayed for death, chased after death and would gladly have died, if only to spend a moment with my son.
    It was in the deepest whole of despair, when I sought my own death, when I cried out to G-d to strike me down, that peace came in the still, calm voice of my Savior. He showed me where my son was and gave me purpose in sons that were not even born yet. He saved me….twice. When I came down off that mountain, I knew G-d for who He is and understood what He has done.
    Even so, I would tell you that losing a child in such a way is a death wound. On that day, I was pierced to the quick, and death did indeed take two in one. But dying, yet I live. And, isn’t that true of us all….really?
    Until you have known death, you fear death. Having known death, he no longer holds any power over me. And, when he comes for me, I will look him in the eye with a grin. For on that day, I will walk again with my son in the fields of my Lord.

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