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11/16/11 blog post

there is no word for a parent who loses a child

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.

Jessica Salem

executive director, Center for Health Equity
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