“When a child loses his parent, they [sic] are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they [sic] are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them.”
–President Ronald Regan
Words are powerful. Having a word describe where you are gives you something of a handle. A connection to your culture (if you will) acknowledging you exist by identifying you. Allowing you to identify yourself and identify with others of the same name. The same category.
When there is not a word, when “there are no words,” someone like me is left fumbling in the darkness. Looking for a foothold, trying to figure out where I (should) stand.
I have had three grandparents die now. (Technically that leaves one parent an orphan now; or is that word only used for children? I’ve always wondered.) Each time my emotion/response and sense of loss was very different. I’ve sometimes wished for an identifying word I could use for myself. I wish for a way to say, “This one was particularly devastating/impacting/significant.”
I haven’t found it yet.