There is no name for my situation in this world. Both my sons have died and I am a parent without children. There is no name for a parent without children.
The name for a child whose parents have died is orphan. The name for a spouse whose husband or wife has died is widow or widower. Is it because it is so painful and unimaginable that no one could bear to name parents whose children have died?
J.K. Rowling writes in her series of “Harry Potter” novels that the villain Voldemort, considered to have been the most powerful and dangerous dark wizard of all time, is so terrifying that he is called “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.” But Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter’s headmaster, says, “Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
Identifying and naming your fear is the first step toward understanding your fear. I also believe there is power in naming your sorrow. It is the first step toward understanding your sorrow. An unnamed sorrow remains vague and nebulous and grows larger in size due to the fact that it cannot be defined in a name. When you can clearly name your sorrow, it can connect you to new ways of thinking that will open doors for you.
The fact that I was a parent and had children changes eternity. Nothing can change that fact.”
I want to call myself and other parents who have lost a child “semper parente.” It is Latin and when translated into English means “always parent.” This term conveys an understanding of the infinite nature of being a parent. It changes the paradigm of parenthood, and expands the timeline beyond this world. The fact that I was a parent and had children changes eternity. Nothing can change that fact. “Semper parente,” always a parent. This name binds me and my children in this world and in eternity.
Related essay: Closure is a myth: Moving forward without my child or my mom
It is fitting that a novel about an orphan helps me understand the need for a name for myself. Harry’s parents were killed by Voldemort when he was a baby, and the love from his parents provided protection for Harry to survive Voldemort’s attack. With the help of magic, Harry’s parents provide courage and support for Harry in his ongoing battles with Voldemort. Using reverse logic, Harry’s parents are “semper parentibus” or “always parents” in eternity. They are bound to Harry in his world and into eternity.
It is also fitting that semper parente is Latin. Latin is considered a dead language because it is no longer a spoken language. But it is a language that was transformed into Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian. Latin is used today in technical fields when clarification is important, such as in medical terminology. Clarification is important in choosing a name for a parent whose child has died. Semper parente defines me, and it transforms the meaning of my parenthood into the infinite.
Writer Karen Quandt is a semper parente. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related essay: When you’ve lost a child, Mother’s Day is Memorial Day