Is there a word that describes a parent whose child has died?
Along the lines of "orphan", "widow", and "widower", is there a single word for a parent who has lost a child (of any age)?
I don't think there's a single word on the order of orphan and widow/widower. I would say bereaved parents.
I'm a bereaved parent who wishes there was a term like orphan or widow to describe my status. Some say there is no such title because the death of a child is too awful to put into words. Some say that historically, a child dying was such a common event that it didn't merit a special word. Also, I've heard it said that the passing of a child doesn't affect the societal status of the surviving parent in the way that widow or orphan does.
I'm here to say that it's awful for me to think it's too awful an event to give name to. It happens everyday to countless parents like me, and I get no comfort from the denial. The other idea, that it's so commonplace that there's no need for a name, seems to diminish the monumental impact of the loss of a child. While it's true that children died more often in the past, it's no longer the case today, in the US anyway. I think our language needs to catch up.
As far as the notion of our status in society being unchanged, although we are not orphaned or widowed, we are forever marked. I think the word shadow, is a good descriptor. We are a shadow of our former selves, even as we move on. We will always have the shadow of our departed children. It has the familiar "dow" in it. I'm going to start using it, and hope that others will join me.
Picking at the Greek words involved:
The Latin for bereaved is detrudat (which I don’t like), and parent is parens.
I think it would be handy for bereaved parents if on being asked whether they have any children, they could say:
Much less painful.
The two-parent word could be tethligons.